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Extruder to amp up university's animal research, education

University of Illinois to install state-of-the-art extruder that will more accurately represent the current pet food and animal feed industries.

Extrusion describes a process crucial to the food and feed industries. Extrusion has been used for a long time to make a variety of food products, including texturized vegetable proteins, breakfast cereals and pasta, according to the University of Illinois. Since the 1950s, extrusion has also been widely applied in the manufacturing of dry and semi-moist pet foods.

The essential cooking step is vital for increasing nutrients and eliminating antinutritional factors. The process transforms co-products — which previously would be wasted and discarded — into valuable resources in the feed and pet food industries, said Maria R.C. de Godoy, assistant professor in the University of Illinois department of animal sciences and Division of Nutritional Sciences.

“Extrusion is a versatile process that can make large amounts of products by applying thermal and mechanical energy that then leads to chemical and physical changes of the original product,” Godoy said. “Plus, extrusion provides a killing step through cooking that is critical to control foodborne pathogens and improve food safety.”

Soon, a state-of-the-art extruder will be installed at the university's new Feed Technology Center. This piece of equipment more accurately represents the current pet food and animal feed industries, allowing students and professors to take teaching and research to the next level, the university said.

“The Feed Technology Center is a gamechanger for us,” Godoy said. “It will allow us to develop a robust research, teaching and outreach experience for our students and communities that otherwise we couldn’t offer. The Illinois Companion Animal Nutrition (I-CAN) program is one of the nation’s top programs. Completion of the center with extrusion capability is paramount to maintaining the excellence of our program."

The University of Illinois Feed Technology Center can collect real-time data that provides researchers with results rapidly, which Godoy said is crucial as the feed industry evolves. The hands-on experience will better prepare students for their careers.

For Lauren Reilly, a third-year doctoral student studying proteins and extruded diets, a new extruder will allow her and future students to learn more about the process and its limitations, therefore complementing their background in nutrition.

The extruder could benefit students from other colleges, Godoy said, suggesting that students in engineering or computer science could study data generated by the extruder. The data also will be a valuable tool in advancing precision animal agriculture, a critical area that aims to address local and global challenges related to food, agriculture, families, communities and the environment, the announcement said.

“As we continue to evolve in this project, there will be a lot of opportunities for advancement of the field but also for general education of our students and community,” Godoy said. “It is important to continue to share information about how food processing can be used to manufacture safe and nutritional diets for companion animals, aqua and livestock species and to support their health, welfare and optimize animal performance. The center and its extrusion capability will allow us to continue this dialogue with local and global communities and also to demonstrate how feeds and pet foods are made.”

The Feed Technology Center is on time and on budget for completion in October, according to animal sciences research specialist Jonathon Mosley.

The University of Illinois College of Agriculture, Consumer & Environmental Sciences is seeking a Feed Technology Center manager experienced in research and education as well as in milling from a livestock perspective. The manager will oversee extrusion and other processes and will lead the team responsible for Feed Technology Center daily operations.

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