This post is sponsored by Mars Petcare. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about how Mars Petcare makes a better world for pets, but Playful Kitty only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Mars Petcare is not responsible for the content of this article.
One of the big perks of having been an ambassador for Mars Petcare at the Blogpaws Conference in Nashville was getting to go see Mars’ Global Innovation Center. What loving pet parent wouldn’t want an opportunity to see how their pets’ food is made and talk to the people responsible for it? A small group of other pet bloggers and I had the ability to see Mars Petcare from the inside!
The Cat Associates of the Mars Global Innovation Center
Mars Petcare employs cats to help taste test the foods they produce. These cat associates have a photo name badge just like every other employee! They only taste test foods at Mars’ Global Innovation Center. All foods are thoroughly vetted for safety and quality control before they ever come near the cat associates.
The cat associates come from local animal rescues and are of various breeds, ages, sizes, and personalities. One big requirement to become a cat associate is that the cat must be a picky eater. Once the cat associate is “hired” by Mars Petcare, they are moved into Mars’ Global Innovation Center where they will “work” for 2-4 years. Mars Petcare rehomes all of it’s former cat associates itself. Cat associates can be rehomed earlier if they are not doing well in their new environment at Mars’ Global Innovation Center as well.
The facility that the cat associates call home is a very nice place. The cat associates get the entire second floor of one of the buildings at Mars’ Global Innovation Center. There are several moderately large rectangular rooms ( would say about 12′ X 10′). Each room houses no more than 10 cats. The rooms have all kinds of cat furniture and designated feeding stations. There are also fenced in outdoor “cattios” attached to the rooms that allow the cats plenty of fresh air and sun puddles. Cats are placed in different rooms based on their personality and temperament.
Each day begins for the kitties around 6:30 AM. Caregivers work with them almost all day long (5 or 6 PM). The cats are trained using positive reinforcement techniques like clicker training and given a lot of interactive play and attention. Each cat is trained to eat at it’s own station and to urinate in a litter box with no litter. This is not because Mars Petcare is skimping on litter, but rather so that they don’t have to stick a needle in the cat’s abdomen to get a sterile urine sample if the cat does not feel well. A veterinarian specifically devoted to the cat associates checks on the cats daily.
A Focus on Quality Control
Quality control is very important to Mars Petcare. While at Mars’ Global Innovation Center, we were shown 3 demonstrations that gave a visual representation of the kinds of quality Mars Petcare expects from its foods and manufacturing facilities.
- Digestion Simulation
In the beginning formulations of making a new pet food, Mars Petcare simulates how the food will digest in a pet’s stomach in their labs. The food is placed inside a container of the same acids that would be found in a pet’s stomach and the break down of the foods is monitored. If any part of the food would not break down properly in digestion, the food is sent back for reformulation.
- ATP Testing
This test is used on surfaces that touch pet food ingredients while they are being cooked and processed. Every living cell contains chemical called ATP. A special meter is used to detect ATP and if the level is over 100, then a surface must be re-cleaned. The demonstrator rubbed her hand on a clean metal shelf and that alone gave the ATP meter a level of 300.
- Glogerm Testing
Glogerm is a powder that will illuminate germs under ultra violet light. It isn’t easy to tell if something is germy or not with the naked eye. A little bit of this powder can detect germs on your hands or in your pet’s food.
Getting What You Expect in Cat Food
Mars Petcare wants to make sure that you are happy with the foods they create. Their Sensory Team uses a ton of customer feedback to help create the experience you want with your pet’s food. For example, they ask customers whether or not they would consider a food to be “meaty” and work with the other members of the Mars Petcare team to create a food that real customers think is “meaty.” All details about the way a food and its packaging look, smell, sound, taste, and feel are taken into account.
Attention to Nutritional Details
One of the highlights of the trip was getting to meet Mars Petcare’s nutritionist, Dr. Tiffany B. I asked a few tough questions and she handled them with grace. She even seemed happy that someone was caring so much about what was going into our pets’ mouths. Her presentation covered a lot of details about the Mars Petcare product line. As she went along, she even ate a few pieces of food from the selection that she was presenting! I know I saw her eat some of Nutro’s Farm’s Harvest products and a Greenies product as well. She says that she wouldn’t put the products out there for pets if they weren’t high enough quality to put in her own mouth.
One really tough question I asked was about meat by-products. Seeing the word “by-products” on a cat food label can be pretty scary for cat owners. Who even knows what that means? Well, Mars Petcare has provided me with the following statement about what animal by-products are in regards to the foods they produce.
“Animal by-products are excellent sources of protein and essential vitamins and minerals for pets. By-products are the clean internal organs including liver, lungs and intestines. In fact, cats naturally gravitate toward eating these types of internal organs when eating in the wild because organ meats contain more of the essential nutrients than muscle tissues, which can provide more nutrition to the cat.
Specifically, meat by-products and poultry by-products are the clean internal organs derived from beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey or duck.
While we know that animal by-products are very safe, a great source of essential nutrients and highly digestible, some pet parents would prefer to not feed pet foods with animal by-products. At Mars Petcare we offer a range of natural and premium brands, like Nutro and Greenies, that do not have animal by-products.”
Another tough question I asked Dr. Tiffany was about how Mars Petcare sources their ingredients. First of all, they do not use any ingredients from a farm or factory that will not let them in to do inspections. According to the rice supplier I talked to in last week’s post, those inspections come with really high standards. Second, they source as many ingredients as they can from the US, but there are some vitamins that they can only get overseas. Finally, all sources and all factories working with Mars Petcare products MUST follow the exact same procedures and standards as those here in the US.