ARLINGTON, VA. — Three individuals who have contributed significantly to the animal food industry over the past year and throughout their careers were honored by the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) during its annual board of directors meeting May 19.

Eric Altom, Ph.D., of Balchem Corp., received the AFIA 2022 Member of the Year Award; Alan Gunderson, formerly with Vita Plus Corp., received the 2022 Distinguished Service Award; and Keith Epperson, formerly with Kent Nutrition Group, received the 2022 AFIA-Kansas State University Feed Manufacturing Lifetime Achievement Award.

“The US feed and pet food industry provides quality, safety and nutrition second to none,” said Constance Cullman, president and chief executive officer of the AFIA, during the board meeting. “Our success is because of the dedication, vision and passion of incredible, forward-thinking individuals, such as our award winners. We congratulate and thank Eric, Al and Keith for their commitment to the betterment of our industry throughout their careers.”

Altom is the recipient of its 2022 Member of the Year Award for his 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, the AFIA said. 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 more than 20 years of experience in companion animal nutrition, including complex formulation design, application of new nutrients in product development and novel ingredient qualifications.

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 US 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 to 13; two, three-year terms on the Executive Committee (2007 to 2010 and 2011 to 2014) and four terms on the board of directors (2001 to 2004, 2007 to 2010, 2011 to 2014 and 2020 to 2021). He chaired the non-dues revenue task force from 2007 to 2008, which ultimately recommended the formation of IFEEDER.

He served as IFEEDER’s first board of trustees chair from 2009 to 2012 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, the AFIA said.

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 US 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 United States 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.

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