SPRINGDALE, ARK. – Tyson Foods Inc. and Freshpet have formed a strategic alliance focused on growing the refrigerated, fresh pet-food product offerings sold by the Secaucus, N.J.-based pet-food company.

As a result of the alliance, Tyson will have minority ownership in Freshpet. The partnership will combine Tyson’s expertise in developing, processing and distributing meat and poultry products with Freshpet’s pet-food experience to further develop a line of refrigerated pet foods it introduced in 2006.

This isn’t Tyson’s first foray into the $17-billion pet food category. Most recently, in January 2008, the company announced a similar partnership with Kemin Industries, Des Moines, to produce flavor enhancers for the pet food industry.

"We have a history of making quality, meat-based ingredients for the pet food industry, but this is our first launch into branded (via the Freshpet brand), finished pet food," Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson told MEATPOULTRY.com. "We're proceeding in a way we believe will transform the category."

"The alliance between Tyson and Freshpet will meet changing consumer needs by providing real food for pets — not ‘pet food’," said Scott Morris, Freshpet co-founder. "We believe these products will redefine the category and change the way people think about feeding their pets. The Tyson-Freshpet alliance is founded on an alternative nutritional ideology that pet owners should have the option of feeding their pets a high-quality, less-processed, meat-based diet with vegetables and whole grains."

Freshpet developed a line of fresh, refrigerated dog food and treats under the Freshpet Select and Deli Fresh brands in 2006. Both brands are meat-based with vegetables and brown rice and are gently cooked. The foods and treats are all refrigerated, ready to eat and sold in grocery and pet stores throughout the United States and Canada. The products are highly nutritious and based on veterinary nutritionists’ ideal diet for dogs, the company said.

"This is a natural extension of Tyson’s experience in making innovative, refrigerated protein products for families," said Jeff Webster, group vice-president of Tyson’s Renewable Products Division.

Freshpet products are currently produced at a federally regulated plant in Quakertown, Pa., with plans to expand production utilizing existing Tyson facilities.

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