Pet Food Conference

January 30, 2024 | 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. ET
Georgia World Congress Center | Thomas B. Murphy Ballroom | Atlanta, Ga.
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Rafael Auras



Rafael Auras, Ph.D. is a professor and the Amcor Endowed Chair in Packaging Sustainability at the School of Packaging at Michigan State University. Rafael leads a research group of undergraduate and graduate students interested in mass transfer in polymers, biodegradable and compostable polymers, life cycle assessment, packaging waste, and sustainable packaging systems. He has conducted research projects for Fortune 500 companies and government sponsored research projects. He is a regular speaker at national and international conferences regarding biodegradation and compostability of packaging systems, the environmental footprint assessment of packaging using life cycle assessment (LCA) methodologies, and the creation and design of sustainable packaging systems. He is a regular speaker at national and international conferences. He has co-authored more than 200 publications, including four books.

Katelyn Bailey


Katelyn Bailey is a master student under Dr. Greg Aldrich and Dr. Julia Guazzelli Pezzali in the Pet Food Program at Kansas State University. Katelyn earned a B.S. in Animal Science and a minor in Food Technology from Iowa State University.  Katelyn’s research focuses on the use of sorghum in extruded and raw pet foods, and its impact on digestibility, antioxidant capacity, and overall health of dogs and cats.

Michelina Crosbie


Michelina developed her passion for animals early on while growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba which led her to come to the University of Guelph to pursue her undergraduate degree in Animal Biology. Originally wanting to be a veterinarian, Michelina discovered that research was where her passions lied when she was afforded the opportunity to complete an undergraduate research project with Dr.'s Anna Kate Shoveller and Andy Robinson analyzing data on the interplay of genetics and metabolism in purebred dogs. From there Michelina completed her MSc. in Swine Nutrition with Dr. Lee-Anne Huber in 2020 at the University of Guelph evaluating the use of black soldier fly larvae meal in swine diets, completing work that helped lay the foundation for new research exploring the ingredients potential functional benefits. Michelina has always been passionate about dog nutrition so she decided to pursue a PhD in Companion Animal Nutrition at the University of Guelph with Dr. Anna Kate Shoveller validating the indicator amino acid oxidation technique to determine bioavailability of methionine in both peas and chicken meal in extruded diets intended for dogs and exploring the impacts of mycotoxin and mold contamination in extruded diets on nutrient availability. Overall, her research has focused on how we can ensure extruded dog diets help dogs to thrive and how sustainable ingredients can be used safely to support that overall goal. 

Constance Cullman


Constance Cullman is the American Feed Industry Association’s president and CEO. She also serves as the president of AFIA’s public charity the Institute for Feed Education and Research.  She represents AFIA on international issues, serving on the International Feed Industry Federation’s board of directors and executive committee, as well as the Global Feed LCA Institute’s board of directors.  In 2020, Cullman was appointed to serve on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service’s Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee. Cullman previously served as the president and CEO of Farm Foundation. Prior to that role, she served as the U.S. government affairs leader for Dow AgroSciences; senior director of regulatory, technical and international affairs at the Corn Refiners Association; associate administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service; vice president of agricultural ecology at the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation; and extension associate at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Cullman has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a master’s degree in agricultural economics with an emphasis on international trade and agricultural policy from The Ohio State University. She hails from Marysville, Ohio, where her family owned and operated a cow/calf farm.    

Vanessa De La Guardia-Hidrogo


Vanessa M. De La Guardia-Hidrogo graduated from Zamorano University with a B.S. in Science and Agricultural Production. In 2019, she relocated to the U.S. to pursue an M.Sc. in Animal Sciences at Mississippi State University. Following her graduation, she commenced her doctoral studies under the guidance of Dr. Kelly Swanson at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign. Her current research focuses on the effects of dried brewer’s yeast products on gastrointestinal health and immunity of companion animal species. 

Lynn Dornblaser


New product trends have been the focus of Lynn’s career for almost 35 years, giving her a unique perspective on the marketplace and new product development. An experienced public speaker, Lynn has been quoted by major US news organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, and CNN.

Frank Mitloehner



Frank Mitloehner, Ph.D. is a professor and air quality specialist in cooperative extension in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis. As such, he shares his knowledge and research, both domestically and abroad, with students, scientists, farmers and ranchers, policy makers, and the public at large. Frank is also director of the CLEAR Center, which has two cores – research and communications. The CLEAR Center brings clarity to the intersection of animal agriculture and the environment, helping our global community understand the environmental and human health impacts of livestock, so we can make informed decisions about the foods we eat and while reducing environmental impacts. He collaborates with the animal agriculture sector to create better efficiencies and mitigate pollutants. He is passionate about understanding and mitigating air emissions from livestock operations, as well as studying the implications of these emissions on the health of farm workers and neighboring communities. In addition, he is focusing on the food production challenge that will become a global issue as the world’s population grows to nearly 10 billion by 2050. Frank received a Master of Science degree in animal science and agricultural engineering from the University of Leipzig, Germany, and a doctoral degree in animal science from Texas Tech University. Frank was recruited by UC Davis in 2002, to fill its first-ever position focusing on the relationship between livestock and air quality. 

Elaheh Rabiee


Elaheh Rabiee, is a passionate scholar with a strong math background, currently on a Ph.D. candidate in Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University (KSU). Elaheh's academic story started with a love for math, earning a Bachelor's in Pure Mathematics from Amirkabir University of Technology (AUT) in Tehran, Iran. Later, she switched to economics, achieving her Master's in Economics at KSU. Elaheh has a broad range of research interests, encompassing various fields. She has a passion for agribusiness, with a particular focus on pet food. Additionally, she has a keen interest in Machine Learning and Data Mining.

Charles Starkey


Charles Starkey, Ph.D. is the North American Renderers Association (NARA) vice president of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs. He received his BS and MS degrees from Arkansas State University, and his PhD in Animal Nutrition from Kansas State University. He began his career as a New Business Development Manager for DSM Nutritional Products and has also worked as a nutrition and production management consultant. More recently, Dr. Starkey was the Director of Technical Services with American Proteins, Inc. and Director of Monogastric Technical Services for Balchem Corporation just prior to joining the faculty at Auburn University’s Poultry Science Department in May 2016. 

Kelly Swanson


Kelly Swanson, Ph.D., is a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). His laboratory studies the effects of nutritional intervention on health outcomes, identifying how nutrients impact host physiology and gut microbiota, with a primary emphasis on gastrointestinal health and obesity in dogs, cats, humans and rodent models. Kelly has established an internationally recognized research program, highlighted by over $25 million in research support, 160 invited lectures at scientific and professional meetings, 245 peer-reviewed journal articles, and 15 research and teaching awards. In addition to research, Kelly teaches undergraduate, graduate and veterinary students. He has served in many other capacities, including on Academic Program Review Panels and on advisory boards for many companies in the human and pet food industries as well as nonprofit organizations. Swanson received his bachelor’s in animal and range sciences from North Dakota State University and his master’s and doctorate in nutritional sciences at UIUC.



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Contact Us


Contact Louise, AFIA’s director of regulatory affairs, for any questions regarding conference agenda, committee questions and event expectations. 

SARAH NOVAK     (703) 558-3574       SNOVAK@AFIA.ORG

Contact Sarah, AFIA’s manager of membership & engagement, for any questions regarding AFIA membership opportunities. 


Contact Lynette, AFIA’s specialist, meetings and events, for any questions regarding sponsorships, registrations, travel and hotel accomodations.