Tyson Foods Inc. and Freshpet, a maker of refrigerated dog food and treats, announced March 17 that they have joined forces to provide refrigerated, fresh pet food products.

"The $17 billion pet food market, which has become one of the top 10 packaged-goods categories, has seen significant growth in recent years,” said Tyson in a press release. “One of the key growth trends has been the humanization of pets, as more consumers treat their pets as part of the family," Tyson said.

"A growing number of people consider pets a part of the family and want to feed them high quality food that's closer to what they eat themselves. Tyson is capitalizing on this trend," said Jeff Webster, group vice president of Tyson's renewable products unit.

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Tyson will have a minority investment in Freshpet, according to the Tyson news release. The alliance will combine Tyson’s fresh food knowledge, refrigerated distribution network, product innovation skills, and supply of meat and poultry with Freshpet’s pet food experience and market knowledge.

Freshpet began offering fresh refrigerated dog food and treats under the Freshpet and Deli Fresh brands three years ago. The products are sold at U.S. and Canadian grocery and pet stores.

Freshpet currently manufactures its pet food and treats at a Quakertown, Pa., plant, but the company said it said it plans to expand its production by using existing Tyson facilities.