Local man works to create next great dog food

A St. Louis company is making the next great dog food.

It's the workplace where cats and dogs are living together in harmony! And knowing the names of your co-workers means knowing their pet's names too. Here's a behind-the-scenes look inside a St. Louis company through the eyes of a local man creating the next great dog food for your pet.

On the edge of downtown is a workplace where you'll find a cat named King Tut in the board room, and Sushi waiting in an office down the hall.

"This is Sushi. She's Havanese," says Dr. Brian Zanghi, a research nutritionist at Nestle Purina PetCare, as we walk past a row of offices.

In this workplace, the name plates on the walls identify more than just the humans working there.

"At any one time there's probably 60 to 70 pets on campus," says Brian. "We recently just had the Guinness Book of World Record set for the most pets in one workplace."

Welcome to a typical workday at Purina. The tidy campus that began as an animal feed and cereal business established by William H. Danforth is still as relevant as it was when it was founded in 1894.

Because deep inside the red brick buildings, work is underway to create the next generation of pet food for your dog or cat.

While you're worried about your aging heart and brain, Brian Zanghi has spent the past 10 years worrying about the exact same things happening to your beloved pets.

"We're constantly looking for what the cutting edge, next nutrition or scientific innovation we can deploy into a diet for the food," says Brian.

His title is research nutritionist. But to Brian, owner of puppy Aspen, and 14-year-old Baxter, the work is personal.

"So it's not all about longevity, but it about being healthy for as long as possible as well," says Brian.

Does he have Baxter in the back of his mind?

"Absolutely, absolutely," says Brian.

Brian's work has led to some major pet food breakthroughs. Knowing that dogs can suffer age-related dementia just like humans, he helped discover that manipulating saturated fats called MCT's, in a dog's diet can create healthier lives for older pets.

"As a dog ages, just as in people, our ability to use our blood sugar by our nerve cells will start to decline," explains Brian. "So this particular type of fat is used an alternative energy source for brain cells which allows them to function more efficiently which is part of the reason these dogs go through such a tremendous transformation."

Brian's life-work reaches far outside the red-brick walls of Purina. It can be found in pet stores across the country.

Getting a dog food from the lab to the store can take five to nine years. His work on MCT's directly translated into Purina's new Bright Minds brand for aging dogs.

For him, this is the pay off, this and watching his buddy Baxter live to such a ripe old age.

In fact, there's a little bit of Baxter in a lot of what goes on here.

"Baxter has probably been one of the most influential pets brought to work because he's helped support about 18 different projects in terms of getting a urine sample, saliva sample, unfortunately a poop sample," says Brian.

It's a focus on animals that hasn't changed since William Danforth started all this.

According to Brian, Danforth's statue, and his philosophy of the five "talls" laid out in on a checkerboard on campus are still very much part of the corporate culture.

"Stand tall with integrity, and think tall with expertise, and create tall with innovation," says Brian, as he recites three of the talls. "We strive to live through those principals in Mr. Danforth's honor."

Like so many things at Purina, the focus on pets in the workplace has led to a unique workflow. Things like the canine bathroom break. But for workers dedicated to feeding millions of pets every day, they don't want it any other way.

"For me the most rewarding thing is having my dogs with me here at work every day, and having them as a constant reminder that the project work that I'm focusing on for that day."

Ultimately making life better for the pet owner and the pet.

Photos on mobile: Obedience rally at Purina Farms

Photos on mobile: Pets for adoption

Photos on mobile: Pets in Halloween costumes


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