ARLINGTON, VA. — At its 2021 Pet Food Conference, held virtually Jan. 26, the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) recognized two long-time industry professionals with the 2021 Friend of Pet Food Award for their significant contributions in the pet food processing sector.

The award was presented by Scott Baker, marketing manager at SEM Minerals, LP, to Galen Rokey of Wenger Manufacturing, Inc., and Michael Panasevich of Summit Ridge Farms.

"Rokey and Panasevich are both truly friends of pet food and we are thrilled to recognize them today,” said Louise Calderwood, director of regulatory affairs for AFIA.

“Rokey’s creative force has helped foster pet food’s transformation into an industry with high nutrition, quality and sanitary expectations,” she continued. “The global pet food market would simply not contain the current value and scope of choices without Rokey's dedicated, humble work. His career has been full of pet food advancements for which we are all grateful.”

Rokey is currently the director of process technology at Wenger’s companion animal division. His latest achievement was a breakthrough in thermal screw extrusion technology, allowing pet food processors to extrude with more than twice the amount of fresh meat content than previously possible.

“Combining a vast knowledge of nutritional requirements, with an expert understanding of ingredients and a proficiency in cooking and forming via the extrusion process, Rokey has advanced pet food concepts in the research laboratory, then educated the industry on the lecture circuit, leading to the industry’s feed-to-food evolution,” Baker said.

Panasevich is currently the president and founder of Summit Ridge Farms, described by AFIA as the world’s largest independent research facility dedicated to the pet food industry. The company conducts testing and provides best practices for testing protocol for dog and cat food manufacturers. Panasevich is also a regular participant in industry-wide meetings and discussions, including the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) feeding trials subcommittee.

“Panasevich’s passion and life's work has been to provide the most precise, accurate and scientific data that empowers the industry to develop absolutely the best diets, treats, supplements and products for consumers,” Baker commented.

Calderwood added, “He offers truly invaluable experience and knowledge on study design and implementation and has made it a priority to pass that knowledge on to the next generation.”

Read more articles about AFIA’s 2021 Pet Food Conference.

Read more about personnel changes throughout the industry.