Would you care for a serving of roast bison and venison, served with sweet potatoes, and a side of blueberries, or perhaps the smoked salmon, with tomatoes and peas?
No, that isn’t a conversation that I recently had with a server while ordering dinner. That is a list of ingredients from a bag of my dog’s food.
Some of you that follow my Twitter account may have noticed a deluge of puppy photos appearing on my feed during the last few months, as my wife and I recently added a furry little bundle of joy to our new household. Just like many obsessively annoying new parents, I fawn over the little guy, and probably bore the heck out of my dog-less friends discussing all of his antics and quirks. Naturally, of the things I go completely overboard on, his food is a big one. And I’m not alone.
Let us turn the clock back a little. The summer after my freshman year of high school, I landed my first real job working in semi-luxurious pet boarding facility here in Atlanta. One day, we had a very high maintenance owner book a stay with us for her pampered Dalmatian, and she brought with her a long list of demands. Never mind that she booked an entire room usually reserved for a doggy day care group of 15 animals for her lone pup, or the strictly regimented schedule of rotating chew toys that we had to supply the dog, lest he get bored. The one instruction that I’ll never forget was that twice a day, I had to spoon feed this Dalmatian 2 scoops of Haagen-Dazs coffee flavored ice cream.
Granted, this is an extreme example, but it illustrates a larger point. As America’s food-consciousness has expanded in the last two decades, so has our awareness of what we feed our pets. Now, many of us regularly shell out nearly twice as much for organic, grain-free dog food instead of the Pedigree or Alpo of yesteryear. Milk-bones and Beggin’ strips have given way to dried bull pizzles and grass-fed beef tracheas. And I’m guilty as charged.
It seems that our people-food trends now quickly jump to the pet food world. “Natural” and “organic” are just as much of a buzzword in the pet store as in Midtown. Food trucks have been all the craze for the last few years…enter Poochsicles and Bark Bites, Atlanta’s own mobile doggie ice cream truck. (Disclaimer: I’ve fed my pup from the Poochsicles truck, and he freakin’ loved it.)
Perhaps the height of pet-foodie absurdity? The Farm to Bowl movement. That’s right, folks in New York are shelling out anywhere from $8-$10 per pound for leftover cuts of locally raised and organic meat from real butcher shops for their pets.
So, do I feel ridiculous when I sometimes pour a little Benton’s bacon fat onto a bowl of all-natural venison dog food for my pup? Sure I do. However, I comfort myself with the fact that he really seems to enjoy it and the likely misguided thought that I’m raising a pet with a good palette. Though, I still hear my father’s voice in the back of my head saying, “Good lord Jon, it’s just a dog!”
What about you pet owners out there? Are you on board with the latest pet-foodie trend, or is the whole thing just smart marketing and a waste of money?
-By Jon Watson, Food & More blog