To best appreciate how the invention of commercial animal feeds transformed American
commerce and transportation, imagine all of the cars and trucks on the road today—but no gas stations. That’s oddly similar to the dilemma horse owners faced in the late 1800s. Keep in mind that,
until the 20th century, horses and mules were the very engines that drove progress.
They cleared and plowed the land. They transported goods to market. They moved families westward.
When traveling, wagon and buggy drivers would need to stop in town after town to buy corn, grain and hay to feed the team. The next challenge was to blend these random ingredients in the proper proportions—a bit too much corn, for instance, could cause colic in a horse and tragically derail the itinerary. That Eureka Moment
In 1894, 24-year-old William H. Danforth could see that commerce was being constrained largely by one fundamental thing—the lack of a reliable supply of available, portable, nutritionally balanced animal feed.
Purina Mills grew out of his desire to change that. In those days, there was perhaps no better place to embark on such a business venture than St. Louis, a bustling river port and Gateway to the West. Transforming Commerce
Back then, most farms were less than 200 acres in size. But soon the availability of commercial feeds like Purina made it possible for farmers to expand their herds and flocks and begin taking their surplus to market.
The rest is history. Animal agriculture and Purina Mills essentially grew up together as the company became the leading pet food manufacturer in the industry.
Emphasis on Quality
From its inception, the primary difference between Purina Mills and its competitors was an insistence on quality. In 1916, Purina Mills was the first in the feed business to establish an analytical laboratory to test the final product before it went out to customers. As the largest feed manufacturer in the United States, Purina Mills was able to insist on top quality ingredients from sellers and to this day maintains a list of “approved suppliers” so that it doesn’t waste time with those who might sell lower quality materials. Purina Mills has also spearheaded the industry’s most innovative system for testing ingredients and monitoring nutritional consistency. Click here to learn more about our FeedGuard® Nutrition System.
Birth of the Checkerboard
Danforth’s visionary talents also extended to marketing. As more competitors entered the commercial feed business, Danforth was quick to realize that he needed a way to make his feeds stand out in an endless row of plain burlap bags. He thought back to his childhood in Charleston, Missouri, and those Saturdays when folks would bring their produce to town to sell. The Brown family always stood out from the crowd because they all wore bright red and white checkerboard clothing handmade by Mrs. Brown.
Danforth decided to trademark the Checkerboard and put it on everything connected with the company. In 1904, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition World's Fair in St. Louis was the perfect venue for unveiling the Checkerboard to the world. Today the red and white nine-square is still recognized as a sign of quality and is one of the most recognizable logos in America through products such as Purina Chow
and other brands. First in Research
The year 1926 marked the opening of Purina Research Farm, 40 miles west of St. Louis in Gray Summit, Missouri. Since renamed Purina Animal Nutrition Center, it is still producing innovative products and solutions for today’s animal owners and is recognized as a world research leader in animal nutrition and management. Still Innovating
The Purina Mills Animal Nutrition of today offers hundreds of products for horses, cattle, goats, swine, poultry, rabbits, game animals, exotics and many more. In fact, if it walks, crawls, swims or flies then there is a good chance Purina Mills Animal Nutrition has a product designed to meet the animal's nutritional needs. Sold through an extensive network of independent dealers and farm and fleet retailers, there is a great chance that you are never far from a Purina Animal Nutrition Feed dealer. In 2001, Purina Mills Animal Nutrition was purchased by Land O'Lakes, Inc. out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. However, Purina Mills Animal Nutrition marketing and research are still headquartered in Gray Summit, overlooking the rolling hills of the 1,188-acre Purina Animal Nutrition Center.
To learn more about Purina Mills Animal Nutrition, visit our Video Library
where you can view videos about the company and our people and our latest products and innovations.