Carnivore Meat Company paves the way for freeze-dried growth | Pet Food Processing
This article was published in the July 2023 issue of Pet Food Processing. Read it and other articles from this issue in our July digital edition.
When Lanny Viegut, chief executive officer of Carnivore Meat Company, is asked to describe his business, he simply says, “We’re a meat shop for dogs and cats.” But the Green Bay, Wis.-based manufacturer of raw frozen and freeze-dried pet food and treats, parent company to the Vital Essentials brand, is definitely more than a simple “meat shop.” The company is a pioneer and leading private-label provider in the raw and freeze-dried pet food space.
Its business has grown year after year since its inception in 2009, and with a new 235,000-square-foot greenfield headquarters and manufacturing facility set to open at the end of 2023, the company has the capacity to keep its business growing for years to come.
“From Day 1 we decided we always have to have open and available capacity — part of our culture is putting ourselves in a position to always be able to say ‘yes,’” Viegut said. “It’s true today and it’s been true throughout our history, we’ve always had extra open availability and capacity to take on more customers.”
With 41 freeze dryers in the existing Carnivore facilities and the potential for four times capacity slated for the new greenfield facility, saying “yes” to existing and new customers shouldn’t be a problem.
The plant will use autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for moving all internal materials around the plant. Co-bots will be used for monotonous, repetitive production tasks such as tray unloading, tray washing and sanitation. And industrial robots will be used for inspection, cold production processing and finished product palletization.
“Many of these automation applications are being custom developed specifically for Carnivore Meat Company,” Viegut said. “We believe we are the first pet food company in the world to integrate this technology.”
However, even with an increased focus on robotics and automation, there will be a need for more than 70 people to work operations in the new facility.
“The automation will help the new plant run more efficiently and effectively, but we won’t be replacing people or decision makers with the new technology,” Lakari said. “We’re going to be hiring different talent. When you have robots and co-bots you need people with different skillsets — more engineers and technicians. There will be more labor opportunities at the new plant.”
Carnivore will work with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to find automation engineer and technician interns to help with the workload.
“If we have three or four young people coming in as interns, we’ll have the opportunity to hire some of them or prepare them for wherever they go to work next. It’s a big win-win for the community, the university and for us,” Viegut said, “And for our customers — because we have access to talent to run the equipment to make sure they get their product on time.”
In addition to production, packaging and 27,000 square feet of office space, the new plant will feature an in-house Innovation Center to help with product development of the Vital Essentials brand. Research and development for current and potential customers and quality assurance testing will also take place in the Innovation Center.
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