A few months in the past, I had the chance to go to a former coworker/good friend I hadn’t seen for a decade or extra. He had invited me to a celebration he throws yearly – one which I had declined with remorse yearly, as a result of he lives in Kansas and I dwell in California. However what with the sudden lack of a beloved member of the family, vaccination towards COVID, and the opening up of restrictions on gatherings, I made a decision that life is simply too quick to show down invites like that. I flew to Kansas, went to the get together and stayed for a pair nights with my good friend and one other of our coworkers from 25 years in the past. It was fantastic to meet up with each mates and to check notes about our lives, a quarter-century down the highway.
I. Love. Kansas.
Once I booked the journey, I gave myself a few unscheduled days to decompress and do no matter I felt like. After I stated goodbye to my mates, I spent a day driving by way of the tallgrass prairie vary in east-central Kansas. The countless inexperienced grass, the matchless blue sky, the billowing white clouds … it was so therapeutic (particularly since, again at dwelling, our sky was smoky from wildfires and the drought has the whole lot trying very brown).
Finally (like, after half a day, lol) I began feeling too self-indulgent; I ought to do some work whereas I used to be on the market. I ended up touring by way of a city the place there are a number of dog-food manufacturing vegetation (Emporia), and visiting the animal shelter there. As a long-time shelter volunteer, I like visiting different shelters; of us who do the identical issues somewhere else do them in several methods and I all the time see one thing fascinating to attempt again at dwelling.
I additionally known as a good friend, Dr. Greg Aldrich, a professor at Kansas State College and founding father of that college’s Pet Meals Program, to ask him what different dog-food-related tourism I ought to soak up. He tried to drag just a few strings to see if he might get me into any manufacturing services the place he had connections, however the COVID restrictions have been nonetheless limiting visits at every place he tried. Nevertheless, in a beneficiant act, he invited me to Ok-State and stated he’d give me a tour of the Pet Meals Program’s services.
I headed to Manhattan, Kansas, and had simply sufficient time to spend an hour visiting that city’s animal shelter earlier than it closed. What I beloved most at that shelter: The pleasant, humorous, and inspiring signage within the shelter, which confirmed their dedication to giving every ward some particular person consideration, and invited guests to interact with the shelter in any approach doable; and the HUGE wooded play yard that was instantly exterior the canine kennel’s again doorways. Workers and volunteers can (and did, whereas I used to be there) simply open a canine’s run, open the again door to that room, and permit the keen canine to ZOOM out the door and run and romp up and down a hill and amongst bushes and grass to their coronary heart’s content material. What enjoyable! No struggling to get a leash on a crazily over-eager canine so that you may be dragged by way of corridors to get exterior – simply opening the kennel gate after which the door, and “Right here you go!” I beloved that setup.
Permitting shelter canine to recreate in teams helps them discharge pent-up vitality and retains them calmer when they’re indoors. That is GREAT! And I beloved the signage across the shelter; planting seeds within the minds of potential adopters of issues they’ll do for the animals there’s a nice concept.
After taking part in with some canine, I discovered a lodge and settled in for the night time. The subsequent day, I met Dr. Aldrich (and his huge silver Lab, Lucre, who will get to go to work along with his dad) at Ok-State. He took me on a tour of the Pet Meals Program’s college services, the place undergraduate, Masters, and PhD college students conduct hands-on analysis into pet meals formulation and manufacturing. What an incredible program! College students who’re focused on a profession in pet meals manufacturing can conduct analysis into formulation and manufacturing; the college has services for the whole lot from grain-milling, meat-processing, freeze-drying, baking, canning, and extruding. A number of laboratories exist for organic and chemistry checks. The scholars really manufacture pet meals beneath numerous circumstances and with numerous substances and consider the diet within the ensuing merchandise.
Good For Ok-State, a Ok-State alumni journal, describes this system this fashion:
“This program attracts expertise from many areas throughout the Faculty of Agriculture reminiscent of grain science, agricultural economics, animal science and meals science. Engineering and veterinary medication college and college students additionally collaborate with the pet meals program, together with meals, diet, dietetics and well being within the Faculty of Well being and Human Sciences.”
Dr. Aldrich ordered a stack of pizzas and hosted an impromptu lunch for me and the graduate college students who have been round campus on this summer time day. He invited them to introduce themselves to me and describe their aim within the pet meals business. I used to be so impressed with their curiosity and keenness for pets and pet meals, and fascinated with the tasks they have been engaged on for his or her numerous Masters and PhD tasks.
Whereas I met solely graduate college students, the Ok-State program additionally has choices for undergrads, together with a pet meals minor and an choice inside feed science and administration.
This constructing at Ok-State, in Manhattan, Kansas, is the house of Dr. Greg Aldrich’s Pet Meals Program for undergrad and graduate college students.
Dr. Aldrich says the one factor this system might use is extra college students. “Kansas has declining enrollment numbers for college students of school age, but the business is asking us for an increasing number of younger folks to return work for his or her corporations,” he advised me.
Based on Good For Ok-State, the U.S. is the most important market on the planet for pet meals, a $33 billion enterprise yearly.
Dr. Aldrich had one other assembly and the scholars needed to get again to their tasks. I thanked all of them and hit the highway once more. I had just a few extra hours to kill earlier than I headed again to Kansas Metropolis to catch my flight dwelling. I assumed, I’ll go go to some pet provide shops! That is one other behavior I prefer to indulge after I journey. I like seeing the totally different merchandise which are stocked by shops in several areas of the nation; the meals, toys, and even coaching gear are fairly totally different!
Right here was one thing else that was fairly totally different: What I name “pet provide shops” in California are really “pet shops” in Kansas; no less than, the 2 I visited have been. They really promote puppies. Like, a number of puppies. One retailer had over 70 puppies; the opposite had almost 50.
The one approach that there may very well be this many puppies in the identical age vary and of so many alternative sizes and breeds (and breed-mixes; they weren’t all purebreds) in shops on this many numbers: pet mills, that are apparently thriving in some elements of the nation.
That is no strategy to develop up. Some puppies are too younger and never effectively. They don’t get bowls of water, as a result of they’re too messy. As a substitute they drink from rabbit-waterers.
I don’t know the reply. How can we produce sufficient canine to fulfill demand with out having to breed and promote them on this approach? I can’t think about how dangerous it’s to their growth to need to dwell for any size of time in these tiny wire-bottomed enclosures, consuming from these horrible ball-bearing rabbit-waterers. And what occurs to the pups who “age out” within the shops? Do they return to the pet mills to be compelled into a lifetime of countless reproducing themselves? Ugh! I hated the whole lot about these shops, and need that nobody purchased pups this fashion.
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