Earth Animal is elevating standards in the pet food industry. For the past 42 years, the company has pursued the highest product quality when processing and packaging its all-natural chews, treats, dog food and more. In addition to using the best ingredients from reputable suppliers, Earth Animal relies on world-class inspection equipment including a Mettler-Toledo Safeline X33 X-ray inspection system, installed last year at its Riverstone facility in Westminster, Maryland.
“We recently completed a big, facility-wide renovation and updated our lines with the latest technology. It was our sales rep, Dick DeNenno at Reliant Packaging Machinery, who encouraged us to go with X-ray inspection instead of a traditional metal detector. X-ray systems identify and remove stones, shells, glass, rubber and other foreign bodies, in addition to detecting metal,” said Kelly Raiser, general manager and co-owner of Earth Animal’s Riverstone facility. “Our pet foods are made with real, fresh ingredients, which means that natural foreign materials like pebbles are not uncommon. With our X33, we can be sure no foreign bodies make their way into the final product — we’re protecting our customers and their pets, as well as our brand.”
“Our new X33 X-ray system helped us see that our primary vulnerability comes from incoming raw ingredients, not from any issues inside our plant. Knowing this, we went to our ingredient suppliers and asked them to put in more safeguards on their side,” said Nick Stalder, production manager at Riverstone. “Now we can hold our suppliers accountable if it looks like foreign material came in with their raw product. Honestly, our X33 has already paid for itself with that process improvement alone.”
Earth Animal’s Riverstone facility produces its Dr. Bob Goldstein’s Wisdom brand of dog food, which is packaged in four-sided, gusseted stand-up bags weighing 1, 3 and 10 pounds, and made from a sustainable, biobase material formulated with sugar cane. This facility also produces pet treats in conventional stand-up pouches weighing between 4 and 7 ounces. A movable conveying system allows either of Riverstone’s two primary packaging lines to feed into one inline X33 X-ray system at a rate of 18 to 20 bags per minute. Packages that do not pass inspection are automatically removed from the line with a pneumatic reject device, also from the Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection Group.
“Think of our dog food like a trail mix. It is made up of dried meats, fruits, veggies and other ingredients, which all have different densities and moistures. That variability would be challenging for most X-ray systems, but not the X33. (The X33) is able to adjust for all those tiny differences,” said Claire Farrell, quality assurance – quality control manager at Riverstone. “You can actually see each of the ingredients on the screen as the X33 inspects them. Its accuracy and sensitivity are impressive.”
Mettler-Toledo’s X33 X-ray system uses a 20-watt generator that consumes one-fifth of the power as its previous-generation SmartChek and AdvanChek models, while achieving the same outstanding detection sensitivity. “We love that this system is so energy efficient,” said Raiser. “Sustainability is a huge part of every decision we make here at Earth Animal. It’s important that our X-ray system fits into our environmental pledge.”
“Sanitation is another one of our top priorities. We always look for systems that are engineered for easy cleaning and maintenance,” said Carl Hammond, facility engineer at Riverstone. “Since our X33 is inspecting packaged product, it needs only a dry clean and then a sanitizer on the conveyor. The design improves equipment hygiene and reduces downtime, which supports our overall operating efficiency.”
“Overall, this is an extremely reliable piece of equipment. We’ve had 100% uptime with our X33 to date and haven’t had a single test standard rejected — it works perfectly,” said Raiser. “The biggest thing for us as a company is knowing that our final product is up to our high food safety and quality requirements. Given our experiences with Safeline’s X33, I never want to run another packaging line without this technology. The level of confidence and security it provides us is invaluable.”
Robert Rogers, senior advisor for food safety and regulation at Mettler Toledo Product Inspection Group, serves as a subject matter expert to various regulatory and industry organizations such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and PMMI, The Association of Packaging and Processing Technologies. Rogers presents at various trade shows and conferences and writes articles and blogs about this critical industry issue. He may be contacted at [email protected] or 813-342-9138.