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Open house at chow plant stresses quality

August 24, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

HALFWAY - Hundreds of people, a baby bear and a 1-month-old bobcat attended an open house Saturday for the $5.5 million Purina Mills Inc. chow plant on Hopewell Road.

Customers on hand included Clear Spring area resident Gary Shank who exhibits several exotic animals at his five-acre zoo and brought a few for visitors to see and pet at the open house.

When the 5-month-old Himalayan black bear he was walking around the plant's grounds grows up she will probably get her share of Purina Mills dog chow, which Shank said he feeds the bears at his zoo.

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He said he feeds his lambs and goats Purina Mills chow as well.

About 750 people were expected to tour the plant, including customers and dealers from the plant's marketing area of Maryland, West Virginia, southern Pennsylvania and northwest Virginia, company officials said.

Plant Manager Dennis Gwin said company officials prefer to call the feed, which the company makes for dogs, cats, horses, hogs, dairy cows, poultry, game fish, deer and ostrich, chow.

"Anyone can make feed," said Gwin.

Purina has a multi-million dollar research facility in St. Louis, Mo., that produces nutritional chow formulas, Gwin said. There are chow programs for hogs that cover them from babies to farrowing to finishing before they go to market, he said.

The Washington County plant produces bulk chow for dairy cows, hogs and chickens, Gwin said.

Because the plant can fill specific orders for medicated chow for hogs, it does not produce chow for horses at the local plant, said Larry Belluscio, division sales manager. That reduces the risk of horse chow being contaminated with hog medication, he said.

Chow is checked for quality constantly from when the ingredients arrive to when the chow is shipped out, said Jamey Matheny, a tour guide for the open house and a maintenance manager for the firm's Orrville, Ohio, plant.

Ingredients can include corn, soybean meal, sunflower meal, vitamins and minerals, and the outside covering of wheat and rice kernels, Matheny said.

There also could be cheese puffs, corn chips and potato chips in the animal chow that the company receives from snack food firms that have excess food on hand, he said. The snacks have nutritional value, Matheny said.

Liquid animal fat in the chow provides a high source of energy for animals, Matheny said. The fat is made from leftover carcasses in the rendering process by the slaughtering industry, he said.

The plant can produce 200 tons of chow a day and 75,000 tons a year, Matheny said. It makes chow in meal form as well as in pellets, which are easier for animals to digest, he said.

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