President and CEO Robert Downey receives Distinguished Alumni Award from Ohio State University’s CFAES
Robert Downey, president and CEO of Annamaet Petfoods, Inc., recently received a 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award from The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
Downey earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1977 from The Ohio State University and went on to conduct graduate work in canine nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Now residing in Pennsylvania, he is the president/CEO of Annamaet Petfoods. He was one of six CFAES alumni to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award during the virtual 2021 Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony on March 4.
The Distinguished Alumni Award gives public recognition to those who have brought distinction to themselves and to the college through their participation, commitment, and leadership.
“This year marked the 50th anniversary of Ohio State’s CFAES alumni awards,” said Amy Jo Baughman, director of alumni engagement and annual giving. “The CFAES Alumni Society sponsors this annual program and the society board selects individuals who have made significant contributions to the industry through their careers.”
Pets have always been a part of Downey’s life and hold a very special place in his heart. During the mid-1980s, dog food was largely carbohydrate and grain driven due to a lack of studies in canine endurance activities.
Working with the late veterinary nutritionist David Kronfeld at the University of Pennsylvania, Downey worked on seminal studies involving the endurance of beagles and sled dogs. They found that dogs performed longer and better when provided a high fat diet when compared to the industry standard of higher carbohydrate diets. Their work forever changed the way modern endurance and performance dogs are fed.
Looking to make a change within the industry, Downey began Annamaet Petfoods, named after his mom Anna Mae, in 1986 with a mission to develop holistic, natural pet foods that provide optimal nutrition, to maximize the health and well-being of dogs and cats worldwide, while maintaining a responsibility to the environment and our natural resources. Annamaet now exports to 15 countries, as well as throughout the U.S.
Downey brings to the pet food industry the unique combination of a broad scope of knowledge in the field of nutrition, as well as a lifelong involvement with dogs. As president of Annamaet, he has formulated many diets for puppies to senior dogs, including an obesity formula that also works well for dogs with pancreatitis.
Downey’s career far exceeds just canine and feline nutrition. His work led him to live in Alaska for 20 winters where he raced sled dogs. During his time in Alaska, he saw firsthand the large surge of student dropouts, youth suicides, and drug and alcohol abuse in the interior Alaskan villages.
These negative trends encouraged a native Athabascan elder friend of Downey’s to look to sled dogs as a way to rehabilitate the community. Sled dogs are deeply rooted in the culture and community, and the elder thought they could possibly support, strengthen, and empower youth.
With the support from Downey, a school-based program was established, merging Western education with traditional methods taught by local native elders. Students have excelled in the program which uses sled dogs and culture to teach science, numerical skills, literacy, and great pride in their native heritage. The program has succeeded, with honor roll doubling and a dropout rate decline. It has evolved to be part of the curriculum for 16 Alaskan schools.
Downey’s passion for dogs is real and well deserved as they literally saved his life when he was stomped by a moose in Alaska.
His dedication to companion animal nutrition and community activism are just two ways that Downey has shown that he is truly an Ohio State CFAES Distinguished Alumnus.