In March 2019, I went to visit my suppliers in Colombia. I am really proud of the product they create. The process of making bully sticks is fascinating but because either the industry wants to keep the process a secret from other potential producers, retailers don't know the process themselves or think it might scare off their consumers (I disagree with this), or another reason I'm not aware of, I haven't found a lot of transparency on how bully sticks are made. Here's my effort to change that. Enjoy!
- Getting the product: Where does the raw product come from?
The raw product (bull/steer pizzle aka penis) comes from the slaughterhouses where the cattle are processed. The bully stick manufacturers work with the slaughterhouses to take the beef byproducts, such as bully sticks and other popular dog treats like cow ears, tails, hooves, etc. that the human meat industry has not traditionally had great demand for. They receive daily deliveries that are kept cold until ready to be made into bully sticks!
2. Cleaning the product: How is the product cleaned?
In the first cleaning stage, the fat is trimmed off (shown below) and a cut is made down the center to release any remaining fluids (blood and urine).
In the second cleaning stage, the raw bully sticks are then washed in a bath of clean water for a few hours to separate any residue, fluids, etc. from the raw bully stick. Below is a typical stainless steel washer used for this.
3. Cooking the product: How are the bully sticks cooked?
The bully sticks are hung vertically in large ovens using hooks at the bottom and top to create tension to keep their shape while cooking. They are cooked at a low temperature (165-195 degrees fahrenheit) for several days! Through this cooking method, the moisture is removed from the raw bully stick leaving a hard, long-lasting chew (and one that doesn't perish easily as well!).
After the cooking step, you have bully canes (very long bully sticks!) that are typically 24"-36" long.
4. Cutting the bully sticks: How are they cut?
The large bully canes are then cut down to size - frequently 6" or 12" each. Because the bully sticks are so hard they are cut using a bandsaw!
5. Sorting the product: How are they sorted?
Because the bully sticks are all-natural, they vary in length and thickness quite significantly. A 6" length of a bully stick can weigh 10 grams or it can weigh 60 grams. And as mentioned, a finished bully stick before being cut is typically between 24" and 36" long but that can vary greatly as well. So the process of cutting to the desired length and then sorting for weight/thickness can be a laborious but key final step. All of our bully sticks are meticilously weighed for consistent thickness and always meet the standards below.
And this is how you and your pups receive consistently high-quality bully sticks!
If you want to learn more about bully sticks and why some companies use sodium metabisulfites (while we never do), read our article What Are Bully Sticks Made of? Beware of Sodium Metabisulfite.
I am very proud of the process used to make your bully sticks. Please let me know what questions you have!