Freeze drying is something that you might reasonably associate with astronauts in outer space before pets. But that probably won’t be the case for long, as more and more freeze dried pet products hit the market. So what is “freeze drying”? How is it different to other food preservation methods? And what are the things to look out for?
Freeze drying is a fairly modern preservation method that can see food lasting for up to 20 years! Yep, really. Moisture is the key factor in food spoiling, which is why most preservation techniques focus on removing moisture from food in order to extend its shelf life. Freeze drying uses very, very cold air to remove all of the moisture from the food item, without altering it in any other way. This means the food is preserved, while also keeping it in its original state, nutritionally. There is no heat treating or cooking involved, so when our meat goes into the freeze dryer raw, it comes out raw!
Freeze drying is still in its infancy here in Australia, which makes sense when you realise that a freeze drying vessel with a one tonne capacity is a $150,000 investment (a lot more expensive than your everyday bench top dehydrator!). It’s something I became really excited and passionate about when it was trending hard at the Superzoo conference I attended in Las Vegas last year, and it’s already a huge market in the USA.
But freeze drying comes at a huge cost to manufacture. I did an enormous amount of research when I got back to Australia, determined to find someone to create my new freeze dried range that already existed in my head. What I discovered is that there are only 3 companies in Australia with freeze drying vessels. All Australian made freeze dried treats come from one of these 3 manufacturers – but that doesn’t mean all products are the same.
The quick and easy way to start a freeze dried treat company is to buy a big bag of freeze dried treats from a distributor/ manufacturer and put them in your own branding. This process is called “white labelling” and it’s extremely common in the pet treat industry – some people even do it without asking for permission first! When done properly, this practice isn’t necessarily bad and I do it with my dehydrated treats because I don’t (yet- Its on track for the end of the year!) have a commercial facility and I don’t want to operate one at home without the required licence. But I have formed close relationships with my suppliers and contract manufacturers so I know everything about the treats they produce, there facilities, and I know they have all of the required licences in place (make sure your dehydrated treat dealer has a licence or is buying their treats from someone who does!).
I didn’t do this with my freeze dried treats because I wanted to own the process from start to finish. I didn’t want to buy treats from someone else without knowing exactly what was going into them, the origin of meat, and if it’s human or pet grade. I wanted to ensure the meat is ethically sourced, and be involved in everything else that goes with creating your own range of Australian pet treats (which is more than you might expect!), so I am able to answer any and all questions about the products I sell.
Freeze drying vessels have a one tonne capacity, which is how much you have to produce in raw material to make it worth your while. This is why my range contains four different proteins. But when you freeze dry a product you are removing basically all of the water, so you generally get a yield of about 20%, because meat is mostly water. So while it may feel feather light, what you are getting in your packet of Laila and Me freeze dried treats is around 300 grams of raw Australian protein from an export grade meat facility in QLD, that hold a BSI certificate. A BSI certificate is the highest level that you can get for human consumption meat for export. You can view our range of Freeze dried treats here: https://lailaandme.com.au/dogs/dog-treats/freeze-dried/
I did a LOT of research into finding the right meat supplier, the right freeze drying contact manufacturer, and I made sure they hold all of the relevant meat handling certifications. I didn’t have to, but I did. Because I wasn’t about to feed anything that is garbage to my pets or yours. The reason I didn’t have to is because our industry isn’t regulated at all, so anyone can buy a bag of treats off the internet and stick their branding on them with not much more than a credit card and an instagram account. This makes it SO important that you really trust your dog treat dealer. You have to trust that they are doing the right thing by your pets and that they are transparent in their processes. The cheapest treat on the market is pretty much never the best one, but if you have any doubts at all, my advice would be simply to ask them to provide the information I have supplied here.
If they can’t, now you know why.
Photo credit @evie_le_chi
Copy written by Clare https://hunde.com.au/