The American Feed Industry Association’s 10th annual Pet Food Conference was held Tuesday in conjunction with the 2017 International Production Processing Expo in Atlanta. Attendees heard from a panel on environmental monitoring in pet food safety programs, as well as eight individual speakers.

Melissa Brookshire discussed the need for transparency with pet food customers during her presentation, Making Pet Food for Today’s Discerning Customer.

“A pet food manufacturer today needs to balance the nutritional requirements of the animal, conducting sustainable operations and the needs and wants of the consumer. It can be done, but it takes some focus and attention,” said Brookshire.

FSMA discussed at conference

The ever-important Food Safety Modernization Act was a high-priority topic. The Food and Drug Administration’s Jenny Murphy said the agency’s inspection mindset is to educate before regulating when it comes to FSMA.

“FSMA puts control in the facility’s hands. Take responsibility, go beyond basic requirements in your quality and food safety programs,” said Murphy.

The next generation of pet food employees

The conference speakers also discussed developing the next generation of pet food employees. A U.S. Department of Agriculture/Purdue University study reported there is a need for nearly 60,000 high-skilled employees in the food and agriculture arenas between 2015-20. Jessica Starkey, PhD, an assistant professor at Auburn University, said education about careers in agriculture starts with our country’s teachers.

“Educating the educator on the pet food industry will help us share information with students looking for careers in agriculture. The students are there, we just need to connect to industry,” stated Starkey.

Other topics included: industry trends, trade, extrusion of grain-free pet foods, and research and AAFCO updates. 

Attendance increases from 2016

“In 2016, there were 250 attendees at the Pet Food Conference. This year’s conference, with 365 registered attendees, tops the record books as the largest yet,” said Leah Wilkinson, AFIA vice president of legislative, regulatory and state affairs.

The Pet Food Conference is one of three AFIA-sponsored events at IPPE. It is designed to inform pet food representatives about the latest industry initiatives and included speakers from government entities, private companies and universities.

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