Feed Bites

Reconnecting at the AFIA Pet Food Conference

Written by: Louise Calderwood   |   February 16, 2022

Pet Food Conference, Pets

In late January, the American Feed Industry Association held its annual Pet Food Conference, where we recognized our “Friends of Pet Food” award winners and discussed several emerging topics in the burgeoning pet food space.

Speakers at the conference provided new information in many areas of the pet food sector. Carolyn Kennedy, an independent consultant with the EAS Consulting Group, reviewed the emerging trend of human-grade pet food. AFIA’s Gina Tumbarello presented information on pet food exports. Three graduate students addressed emerging nutrition opportunities for pets in pet food, including: Clare Hsu, from the University of Illinois, who discussed the use of green banana flour in cat food; Samuel Kiprotich, from Kansas State University, who explained the use of organic acidulants to control Salmonella in raw meat-based diets for dogs; and Pawan Singh, from the University of Guelph, who reviewed the effects of pulse inclusion in dogs’ diets on cardiac health.

Erin Mies, of People Spark Consulting, moderated a panel on steps to address human resources in the pet food industry. As part of the panel, Thembi Machaba, from Freshpet, Inc., and Nathan Bingaman, of D1 Resources, Inc., shared their tips for attracting and retaining top employees.

Following a networking lunch and a student poster session, we moved on to regulatory topics with George Ferguson, president of the Association of American Feed Control Officials, and Dave Edwards, Ph.D., director of the Division of Animal Feeds at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. The day wrapped up with John Hoffman from the University of Minnesota and Todd Renner of the FBI providing an examination of cybersecurity and ransomware protection best practices for the pet food industry.

Overall, some of my key takeaways from the day were:

  • It’s the little things that encourage good employees to be great employees.
  • The creativity of graduate students offers bright promise for the future of pet food development.
  • Cybercrime is real and it is here-take it seriously!

But what was my favorite part of the day? The announcement of the Friend of Pet Food award, which is our way to thank those innovative people who are enhancing nutritional programs for the betterment of pet animal health and wellbeing.

We spend so much time focused on pet food quality and pet health and responding to market trends that it is refreshing to remember the reason we are in the pet food business to begin with. It is because we care about pets. 

All in all, it was a great day and I am already looking forward to developing the agenda for next year’s conference.

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