Last week, I had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Royal Canin processing plant. I was flown to Toronto on Wednesday and met up with twenty others from veterinary hospitals from across Canada; veterinarians, technicians, assistants, client services and managers. We had two hours of continuing education, starting with learning about the beginnings of the company Royal Canin. We were told how initially Royal Canin had their head offices in Southern France (and still do) and then, began amalgamating with other pet food companies, namely Waltham in England and Medi-Cal in Canada. They all formed under the Royal Canin banner and now have thirteen processing plants and research laboratories in the world. The head company is Mars (the chocolate bar people), who are very environmentally conscious; to the point of making maple syrup from the trees on the property in Guelph.
As our tour guide, Roy told of the history of Royal Canin; there was an obvious pride that came through. The manufacturing plant holds four accredited certificates (see below), and the company has two board-certified animal nutritionists on staff. He explained how they source their ingredients and the meticulous way the diets are developed and processed; with our pet’s health as the top priority.
Dr. Jackie Parr gave a lecture on nutrition and is one of only five Board Certified Animal Nutritionists in Canada, was very informative and had the Royal Canin pride.
The next morning, after a nice breakfast, we headed to the processing plant. There, we had more continuing education about nutrition, how to identify health issues, as well as a video about processing plant safety. We were gowned in laboratory coats, hair nets, “bump caps” (hard hats for we East Coasters) and gloves. When we were about to head into the processing area, we also put on booties. We started at the packaging end and worked our way to the receiving area, where the ingredients are unloaded. They do the tour in reverse, so we go from the most sterile to the least; this is to prevent contamination. The ingredients and food go through two areas that have heavy duty magnets to detect any metals that may have accidentally fallen into the mixtures. We were not allowed to wear any metals on tour. I even had to remove my wedding ring just in case!
We saw them prepare Anallergenic Diet for shipment to Japan. Anallergenic is a diet that uses a unique protein source that has its proteins “hydrolyzed.” This means the molecules of the proteins are so small the body does not recognize them as proteins, reducing the chance of allergic reactions for pets with allergies. We observed the changing of the cutter plate to make different shapes of kibble (like a Play-Doh template but on a much, much larger scale) for different diets. The machines are cleaned thoroughly, between the different diets and especially before making any of the hypoallergenic diets. As we moved along, workers would stop what they were doing, explain what they do and answered any/all questions we had.
As we entered the middle stage of production, we could see a batch of Anallergenic kibble ready for the dryer. We were offered a sample to eat. We learned that the ingredients for each diet are ground together, so all the nutrients are available to the pet. Then the “pellet” is formed using the Play-Doh cutters. By grinding ingredients, all the bio-available nutrients can be used by the pet. That is why there is corn in the ingredient list. It is a high-quality plant protein once the hard to digest part is ground to be made digestible.
There is also a laboratory on site; “The Lab of the Americas.” This laboratory does research and food testing on every batch of food to ensure it is of the best quality for our pets. All the testing and research for all of North and South America takes place here. The Guelph plant is very proud they were chosen to have this laboratory here in Canada!
We made our way back to the conference room. We were very warm and appreciative of the workers in the Ontario heat. As we peeled off our safety gear, I now knew where the pride came from that I had seen in everyone we met. The plant was cleaner than most kitchens, ingredients tested and rejected, if not top quality. When the ingredients are delivered, samples are taken while the delivery person waits. Once the laboratory is done testing the quality and safety of the ingredient, only then, their ingredients are unloaded. The Royal Canin staff genuinely seemed to love their jobs and our tour guide, who likely has given the same tour numerous times, still conveyed the same passion as if it was his first tour!
I am proud our veterinary hospital provides Royal Canin diets for our clients.
The high standard certifications the Royal Canin plant holds are:
- ISO 14001:2004 – Environmental Management System: Certified in 2010.
- ISO 9001:2008 – Quality Management Systems: Certified in 2011.
- FSSC 22000:2010 – Food Safety Management Systems: Certified in 2013 – there are some human plants that struggle to obtain this one!
- OHSAS 18001:2007 – Occupational Health and Safety Management System: Certified in 2013.
- The Lab of the Americas also holds four certifications including OHSAS.
Written by Connie Boudreau, VA