Who decides how good dog food tastes?
No, really. How do dog food manufacturers determine what a dog will or will not eagerly eat? When I was a kid, our dogs ate Gravy Train. Remember it? You pour these big chucks of… of… brown powder-covered meat-resembling stuff into the bowl, pour warm water over it and stir it around to get the brown powder off the chunks and into the water in order to make the ‘gravy’. It smelled sort of meatish and dogs wolfed it down. Of course, our dog would have wolfed down anything you put in the bowl, not because it was that hungry but because most of the dogs I ever owned as a kid were dumb as a post.
Dog food used to come in 5-pound, 10-pound, 50-pound, 100-pound and Dear-Jesus-What-Kind-Of-Zoo-Are-You-Running sized bags. Now it also comes in dainty little cans, frozen wax bags and plastic containers that looks the same as what the deli puts the rotisserie chicken in. Good ol’ Fido has a better-than-average chance of scoring the meal of his year while your family picks at their plates and wonders why the chicken tastes off.
Dog food manufacturers like Purina and Iams learned to pull in buyers by specializing food for puppies, adult dogs and senior dogs. It’s only a matter of time until there’s food for pregnant dogs, lactating bitches and Awkward Teenage Dog Years. They have also decided to jump on the healthy living bandwagon by putting vegetables in dog food and claim it’s a well-rounded diet. But look, dogs only willingly eat vegetables as long as they aren’t supposed to, or when the family has finished Sunday dinner and Granny says to go throw the scraps on the compost pile. Then you can’t beat the dogs off with a stick because there might be red-eye gravy or pan drippings on those formerly plated green beans.
Honestly, have you ever seen a dog get into a garden and chow down on pea pods or squash or tomatoes? I haven’t. They’re more interested in sniffing for gophers or deer or rabbits or any other creature that’s been at the stuff. So the manufacturers must be going by what appeals to the dog owners, not the dogs themselves. Well duh, you might say, but listen to those commercials on television. The copy claims up and down that “dogs prefer the taste.”
Well hell, if you want to make dog food that dogs seem to prefer, the obvious choice is Butt Flavor. I’m sure that won’t sell, not to people buying dog food for its healthy vegetables and stage-of-life categories. I’m not sure Old Fries on the Floorboard are going to fly off the shelves either, but it stands a better chance than Gopher and Squirrel Stock.
I asked Bitty the Dachshund what flavor of dog food he would prefer (I explained Butt Flavor was not in the running.) He indicated he wanted Whatever That Dog Over There Is Having.
Okay, Purina. Get to work.