After two years, what is your perspective on the pet industry?
What a whirlwind two years it’s been in the pet industry! We’ve certainly faced some challenges, but I’ve also had the chance to see all the good that our industry does. One lesson I’ve really come to appreciate since joining the Pet Food Institute (PFI) in 2018 is how seriously the pet industry takes the commitment to pets and the human-animal bond. Whether it’s donating to the local community food bank or supporting national programs and disaster relief initiatives, the pet industry is involved in so many efforts to help pets and people. There are so many wonderful stories that make me proud to represent the pet food industry.
What projects has PFI concluded/conducted this year?
PFI had a busy start to the year, as we launched new resources and materials to help explain the important role of the pet food industry, both within individual households and on a national scale.
In February, we launched a new video and webpage titled “What’s in a Pet Food Label” that walks the pet lover through the information required on a label as they decide on food for their dog or cat. As shoppers want to learn more about pet food and pet nutrition, we’re here to help equip them with the resources.
We were also excited to roll out a new report in March in coordination with the American Feed Industry Association and the North American Renderers Association looking at the ingredients used in pet food and the industry’s economic impact. No such analysis had been conducted before, and we learned that America’s pet food makers buy nearly $7 billion in animal and plant ingredients that come from our country’s farmers and ranchers. This is exciting and groundbreaking research, and we’ve been hard at work sharing this information with stakeholders, policymakers and government agencies.
How would you describe the current state of the DCM issue?
Two words: frustrating and confusing. The question of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and diet has resonated deeply among pet food makers and created confusion among pet lovers. PFI and our members have worked closely to better understand the science and possible factors influencing the development of this heart condition since the very first announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the summer of 2018. Research is underway throughout the pet sector, including pet food makers. It’s likely that some of this research will become available throughout the year and provide an opportunity for the pet community to study and learn more. We all want to support healthy pets, and a science- and evidence-based approach will be so critical to understanding pet health and communicating with concerned pet parents.
What are some other issues you’re working on/involved with?
Like so many business sectors, we have seen new priorities and concerns emerge with the COVID-19 pandemic. As states began to close nonessential businesses to encourage social distancing, PFI rallied quickly with our trade association partners to ensure that pet businesses were deemed essential and able to continue operations. We also worked with our member companies to provide helpful talking points and language they could use when calling their government to ask that pet food manufacturing be allowed to remain operational. In such a time of uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic, we remained focused on making sure pet food makers could continue to produce and transport the sole source nutrition that dogs and cats need.
What can you tell us about the pets that do you have?
It’s embarrassing to admit that I don’t currently have a pet! My husband and I travel a lot for our jobs (or at least we did until recently). However, I do financially support a small family-owned pet rescue home in southeast Arkansas known fondly as my mother’s house. My mom is a saint for unwanted or abandoned pets, mostly dogs, but she has two horses (one miniature) that think they are dogs. At last count, she had 11 outside dogs and four smaller fur babies inside. She is proud to tell everyone in my hometown that I work for the pet food industry and that my work hits so close to home for her!