Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dog food

This is an article from the New York Times about gourmet dog food. It is of course mildly offensive, which makes me wonder if the paper publishes this sort of article precisely to piss people off, to up readership by inspiring righteous indignation at the excesses of those vaguely Jewish or ethnic liberals, those decadent, super-wealthy East Coast elite straw men that right-wing pundits conjure up whenever they want to make urban or progressive ideas seem ridiculous. A little passive-aggressive contribution to the culture wars, courtesy of the NYT.

But beyond the ugly gut feeling this article inspired in me, it made me concerned that presumably upper-class, food-conscious people could fathom something so unsustainable and immoral as gourmet pet food. The article quotes a food manufacturer who proudly affirms that she includes no grains in her dog food ingredients. I'm sure this appeals to a certain type of foodie, but in the end it's wasteful and stupid. Dogs are omnivores, just like people, so the most sustainable option for feeding your dog is to keep it low on the food chain, with grains and veggies comprising the bulk of its diet (assuming to begin with that your moral compass can bear the idea of diverting any part of the world's food supply, basic grains or otherwise, to canine instead of human mouths). Ideally our dogs would just eat food scraps from our meals, a possibility that seems viable given the inordinate amount of food wasted by a typical US household (this National Geographic visual shows that the average person in the US wastes something like 230 pounds of food per year--enough for 7.5 months or so of a Golden Retriever's food intake from each person in a household). But if you are going to buy dog food, the greenest option is probably plain old industrial dog food, produced from the animal scraps that aren't fit for human consumption and the basic grains that our country grows in abundance. Yeah, stay away from melamine-tinged Chinese generics, but I would think there's an intermediate option between toxic pet food and gourmet salmon. It's questionable logic already for humans to be eating apex predators like tuna fish. To give this food to a dog is immoral.

A final, more personal note on the issue relates to my family's dog here in Colombia (a dog which came to our home through tragic circumstance and not through my free choice). My nephew had been feeding the dog Purina brand imported dog food, which cost something like $60US for a 30lb sack in Colombia. My wife and I quickly decided that no dog in our house was going to eat imported, expensive food, and we switched to a local brand bought more or less directly from the factory. We're now not only saving over half on our dog food, but the dog seems to be healthier with the new, proletarian food choice!

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