Dean Travis grew up in the animal feed business, with his dad managing Valley Feed & Supply on North Loop in the 1960’s and later purchasing the store. Today, the Travis family business has developed into 16 Pet’s Barn stores in El Paso, Las Cruces, and San Antonio, with a 17th store opening in San Antonio later this summer.
Travis also owns and operates his own pet food plant in El Paso’s lower valley. It’s a big operation in the middle of farm fields, where 17 employees produce 3,000 bags of the familiar Activa and Apetito , Dealer’s Choice and more… every day.
Within ten days, those bags are on the shelves in Pet’s Barn stores, and going out the door in the arms of customers. “This is a huge advantage we have over big producers. This is fresh pet food, made locally, only using ingredients that come from U.S. farmers and processors,” Travis notes.
Travis says, “This is very personal. It was my Dad’s business, now it’s my business; I walk through the plant every day to be sure everything feels right. My son, Eric, is in charge of the plant… but I think it’s important that our employees see the owner paying attention to what’s going on.”
Making pet food is not what you might imagine. Pet’s Barn starts with protein – meat and bone meal – that’s shipped in as a dry meal. During the process, vitamins and minerals are added, along with various carbs ranging from potato starch, rice flour, or wheat flour depending on the recipe for the particular dog food product being produced.
Every truck that brings ingredients into the plant is held up for testing before unload begins. Eric Travis explains, “We appraise and test every load with a special probe inserted down into the product that pulls samples every 4 inches. Then we run it through various lab tests in our office to be sure it’s fresh, high quality, and exactly what we would want to feed our pets.” If approved, then unloading begins.
In the plant, the ingredients are mixed, going through a huge grinder that results in a flour-type mixture; next, an industrial sized “preconditioner” adds hot water and steam. At this point, the semi-moist flour goes through the extruder, where the temperature tops 180 degrees to sanitize and expand the mixture into damp kibble.
The dryer oven heats things up, removing excess moisture… then fat – sometimes chicken fat or fish oil, or sunflower or canola oil – is sprayed on to add flavor, and provide energy for the animal that consumes the food. results in a flour-type mixture; next, an industrial sized “preconditioner” adds hot water and steam. The food is then bagged and pelleted. After another round of inspection, the packaged food is inventoried and moved to the shipping warehouse to await shipment to our customers around the country or to our retail locations.
Activa comes in almost every protein source you can think of – pork, salmon, chicken, turkey, lamb, duck, venison – everything except beef. “We stopped working with beef during the mad cow disease scare, and never started it up again,” explains Travis.
Right now, the plant runs 24 hours a day – 4 days a week. The 3,000 bags a day equal 3 semi-loads or 150,000 pounds of pet food that is produced, bagged, and shipped every day to Pet’s Barn stores and to customers from around the country.
Dean Travis says “This operation didn’t happen overnight. It’s been decades of making improvements, coming up with new ideas, developing new products… but one thing remains the same: Our goal is always to locally produce a very high quality product we can sell for a lower price, while providing really good service to our customers and their pets.”
Valley Feed & Supply, Inc. dba Pet’s Barn & United Valley Pet Food is locally owned and operated, producing its own fresh dog food and treats. All ingredients in Valley Feed & Supply, Inc. dba Pet’s Barn & United Valley Pet Food products are grown or sourced in the USA. For more information, contact us at 915-860-4505 or send us a message via our Contact Form.