AFIA Honors Animal Food Industry Champions

May 19, 2022

Contact Lacie Dotterweich, Communications and Social Media Manager

The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) is proud to announce three awards honoring those who have supported the animal food industry over the past year and throughout their careers. The AFIA congratulates Eric Altom, Ph.D., of Balchem Corporation, for receiving the AFIA 2022 Member of the Year Award; Alan Gunderson, formerly with Vita Plus Corporation, for receiving the 2022 Distinguished Service Award; and Keith Epperson, formerly with Kent Nutrition Group, for receiving the 2022 AFIA-Kansas State University Feed Manufacturing Lifetime Achievement Award.

“The U.S. feed and pet food industry provides quality, safety and nutrition second to none. Our success is because of the dedication, vision and passion of incredible, forward-thinking individuals, such as our award winners,” said AFIA President and CEO Constance Cullman during the AFIA’s annual Board of Directors meeting on Thursday. “We congratulate and thank Eric, Al and Keith for their commitment to the betterment of our industry throughout their careers.”

AFIA-KSU Feed Manufacturing Lifetime Achievement Award

AFIA's Gary Huddleston (left) and AFIA 2021-22 Board Chair Mike Schuster (right) present Keith Epperson with the AFIA-KSU Feed Manufacturing Lifetime Achievement Award.

The AFIA honored Epperson with the AFIA-Kansas State University Feed Manufacturing Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifelong support and advocacy of the feed industry. The award recognizes and honors U.S. animal food industry retirees, or those who are no longer serving the industry or allied industries, who have made significant contributions to the animal food manufacturing business in the U.S. throughout their careers.

Epperson has dedicated over 40 years to the feed industry, climbing the ladder at Kent Feeds for 29 years and serving the overall feed industry for nearly 10 years at the AFIA. He was instrumental in helping Kent Feeds achieve its goals and objectives around quality, safety and manufacturing excellence. He personally helped write manuals and procedures and train employees on multiple topics, including proper grain storage, pellet fines reduction, sequencing and flushing protocols, as well as many others. He made employee safety a focus over his lifelong career, challenging employees to improve in every area of safety, raising awareness of safe operating procedures at each plant and championing AFIA's Safe Feed/Safe Food certification program, helping develop it into one of the feed industry's premier animal food safety programs.

AFIA Member of the Year

AFIA's Louise Calderwood (left) and AFIA 2021-22 Board Chair Mike Schuster (right) present Eric Altom, Ph.D., with the AFIA Member of the Year award.

The AFIA named Altom as the recipient of its 2022 Member of the Year Award for his impactful support of the AFIA Pet Food Committee and Pet Food Conference (PFC). The Member of the Year Award is presented to an AFIA member who exhibits outstanding support in achieving the organization’s goals and objectives throughout the year.

Altom brings energy and dedication to every task he undertakes on behalf of the AFIA and Institute for Feed Education and Research. During the 2022 PFC, Altom put in extra effort facilitating the display of posters for students who could not attend the event in person due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and taking the lead during a busy day of moderating speakers. He is a principal nutritionist and industry consultant with over 20 years of experience in companion animal nutrition, including complex formulation design, application of new nutrients in product development and novel ingredient qualifications.

AFIA Distinguished Service Award

AFIA's Sarah Novak (left) and AFIA 2021-22 Board Chair Mike Schuster (right) present Al Gunderson with the AFIA Distinguished Service Award.

The AFIA honored Gunderson with the 2022 Distinguished Service Award for his leadership of the feed industry. The Distinguished Service Award is AFIA’s highest honor and is given to the elite members of the U.S. animal food industry who have provided outstanding support to the AFIA and the entire animal food industry throughout their careers.

Gunderson has been very engaged and involved with the AFIA and IFEEDER, serving as the AFIA Board chair from 2012-13; two, three-year terms on the Executive Committee (2007-10 and 2011-14) and four terms on the Board of Directors (2001-04, 2007-10, 2011-14 and 2020-21). He chaired the non-dues revenue task force in 2007-08, which ultimately recommended the formation of IFEEDER. He served as IFEEDER’s first Board of Trustees chair from 2009-12 and was a personal individual donor. He is known to be warm in his interpersonal communications, smiles and laughs easily, and has a can-do attitude that is second to none.

Editorial Note: Videos of each of the award winners along with additional background on their awards can be found on the AFIA Feed Bites Blog. To obtain permission to embed the videos or obtain high-resolution files of the images above to use for editorial purposes, contact Victoria Broehm, AFIA’s senior director of communications, at