Student Stories: Food Science major interns with pet food maker

Penn State junior Kenzie Brancato had a revelation of sorts when she interned with Ainsworth Pet Nutrition last year.

A Food Science major in the College of Agricultural Sciences, she thought the pet food company would offer a completely different world. "It was actually really similar to the human food industry," said the Conneaut Lake, Pa., native. "Most of the machinery -- like the extruder -- included machines that the food industry uses as well."

On her first day, Brancato toured the plant, the research and development lab, and the kennel and was shown to her own desk for the summer.

"I really liked going to the kennel to watch the dogs and cats on their preference tests. Working in the research and development lab was the best part of the job," she said, adding that she enjoyed watching the lab technicians formulating, improving and perfecting products.

Brancato helped with the process on numerous occasions by checking the density and viscosity of the products.

"I graded the pet food as well," she said. "Cats and dogs have different nutritional requirements than humans, so I had to compare the product to other pet foods."

Brancato also sat in on several business meetings where Ainsworth officials met with prospective suppliers. "I even got to meet with representatives from other companies where I could be employed some day, such as Cargill, which is a major food company."

Brancato's internship at Ainsworth provided an invaluable look into the pet food industry, as well as the food industry, because they are so similar.

While she plans to work in the human food industry when she graduates, Brancato was extremely grateful for the opportunity, especially because it helped get her foot in the door. "I was only a freshman, so it was really a blessing that I got the internship."

Learn more about the Food Science major.

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Last Updated December 09, 2013