ARLINGTON, VA. — As more Americans adopt pets into their homes for companionship during the coronavirus pandemic, the opportunity has never been greater for the US pet food industry to educate new customers about the importance of good nutrition for pets and for industry officials to shape the future outlook for this burgeoning sector.

In 2021, the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) will offer its 14th annual Pet Food Conference, where industry leaders can tackle the changing landscape for the pet food and treat industry and engage in a dialogue on even more diverse issues than have been offered in years past.

Offered as part of the International Production & Processing Expo’s (IPPE) Digital Week, on Jan. 26, this year’s AFIA Pet Food Conference will highlight what pet food manufacturers can expect with a new administration’s trade agenda, how they can meet consumers’ sustainability demands, and regulatory changes that will impact their businesses. The one-day conference will also feature new topics, such as how dogs can be used for disease detection.

The virtual conference provides an exciting opportunity for those who have never participated in the conference before to learn about the latest industry trends, hear from regulators at the US Food and Drug Administration and the Association of American Feed Control Officials, and interact with their peers on issues such as global pet food trends, bio-economics and sourcing sustainable ingredients.

As the pet food and treat industry faces both age-old and more timely challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, this annual conference is designed to increase the awareness and understanding of the opportunities, threats and best practices available for mitigating pet food formulation and marketing issues.

On the agenda are both pre-recorded and live sessions. The three pre-recorded sessions will be available before Jan. 26, and include an update from the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) Mid-Year Meeting by Erin Bubb, president of AAFCO; an analysis of pet food production and ingredients by Rob Cooper, executive director of the Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER); and an update on US trade policy under the incoming Biden-Harris administration presented by Gina Tumbarello, director of international policy and trade for AFIA.

Live sessions will kick off at 10 a.m. ET on Jan. 26 with an introduction and welcome statement by Juan Gomez, global director of Alltech’s companion animal division, followed by a brief Supplier Showcase Spotlight by Trouw Nutrition, USA.

Next is Jared Koerten of Euromonitor International to provide an outlook on “Pet Care in a Post-Pandemic World,” directly followed by a presentation on “Planning for the Next Pandemic” by Jonathon Karelse, chief executive officer of NorthFind Management. Karelse will discuss how behavioral economics can be used to improve supply chain planning.

Directly before the lunch break, Ansen Pond, Ph.D., head of food safety, quality and regulatory at Pilgrims/JBS, will discuss “The Impact of Animal Proteins and Fats on the Sustainability of Pet Food.”

After the lunch break, a welcome-back message and Supplier Showcase Spotlight of ADM Pet Nutrition, the AFIA Pet Food Committee will recognize two industry professionals with the AFIA Friends of Pet Food Award for going above and beyond to further the global pet food industry.

US Trade Ambassador Gregg Doud will present an International Trade Update at 1:30 p.m. ET, followed by a discussion of the role of trained dogs in detecting diseases such as cancer and COVID-19, led by Jennifer Essler, Ph.D., a post-doctoral research fellow at Penn Vet Working Dog Center.

Next, David Edwards, Ph.D., director of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine’s (CVM) Division of Animal Feeds, will provide a Federal Regulatory Update for 2021.

Continuing on the success of 2020, several graduate students will present their research during the conference, sharing with the industry new, groundbreaking findings that may impact their future business. These students are Sydney Banton of the University of Guelph, Ontario, who will present “Grains on the Brain: A Survey of Dog Owner Purchasing Habits Related to Grain-Free Diets;” Xinyao Wei of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, who will present “A Challenge for High-Pressure Processing Pasteurization of Raw Pet Foods;” and Hannah Godfrey of the University of Geulph, who will present “Dietary Choline and its Lipotropic Effects for the Benefit of Companion Animals.”

The graduate student presentations will conclude the 2021 Pet Food Conference, ending at 4:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 26. Pet Food Processing will be covering the event live on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The social media hashtag for the event is #petfoodconference.

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