Thus Spake Zuska

Let Them Eat…Fresh Meals For Pets!

I was making a quick jog through the local supermarket the other night, seeking out cough drops and a few other things for a sad soul at home with the croup, when I rounded a corner and came upon this fresh new vision from hell:

i-88bbf47e1e87268d54fdc786afc1f141-mealsforpets.jpg

And here I am wasting my extra cash on donations to food pantries for hungry humans in the greater Delaware Valley area. You, poor sap, may be throwing away cash on stupid causes like earthquake relief in Haiti, or trying to save birds from extinction. Let’s just all live it up and make sure Fido has a nice Fresh Meal. Maybe we could give the leftovers to the hungry in Philly, or send them off carefully wrapped up to the Haitians. I don’t think they’d fit well in a bird feeder.

Comments

  1. #1 ScientistMother
    April 26, 2010

    I just shake my head at some things people do for their pets. I love my dog, totally and completely. But she’s a dog.

  2. #2 Siamang
    April 26, 2010

    Can’t people feed their dog leftover people food?

    I mean, really, if they don’t want them eating kibble, they could just feed them table scraps.

  3. #3 Cuttlefish
    April 26, 2010

    I love my little Fifi;
    She’s a fully papered Pom–
    It costs a bit to feed her,
    So we’re feeding less to Mom.
    We found a cheaper meal-plan
    At Mom’s “Friendly Acres” home,
    Cos puppy needs her energy,
    And Fifi loves to roam!
    It was this or house the homeless;
    It was this or feed the poor;
    If I cannot splurge on Fifi,
    Tell me, what’s a paycheck for?

    (As I learn about humanity,
    I’m finding that it’s true:
    If you want a moral compass,
    Just ask “What would Zuska do?”)

  4. #4 megan
    April 26, 2010

    I just let my pets supplement their diets with neighborhood varmints, that I’d share in too if I went starving – ie rabbits, mice, raccoon, possums, urban deer(okay only wild dogpacks could bring them down)

  5. #5 skeptifem
    April 26, 2010

    Rachel Ray’s dog food and a bunch of other ones emphasize how they put good cuts of meat into the pet food. There is a weird refrigerated one that is like a loaf of pet food, it looks like insanely girthy sausage or something. In addition to being gross, I get squicked out at the amount of effort that goes into effing pet food. I wish people would just give them the left overs that get thrown out every single day, I think its something like 1,100 calories on average per day? Most dogs would get fat on that.

    I feel better about my anger towards consumerist crap like that when I read about other people who feel the same. Thanks for your post, Zuska.

  6. #6 Otto
    April 26, 2010

    The indignation might be easier to evaluate if the price of the product were actually specified, since it’s only the incremental cost that is diverting mush from the orphans.

  7. #7 Cath the Canberra Cook
    April 27, 2010

    You only just noticed the existence of these things? I’ve been buying the “fresh”* food for my cats for almost a decade. (*where fresh=refrigerated, but heavily laden with preservatives.)

    It’s for occasional treats, such as a reward after visiting the vet. And to tempt their appetites when they are sick. They like meat more than dry biscuits, go figure! And it’s considerably cheaper than giving them human grade meat. And also cheaper than some of the “science diet” specialist pet foods. (That’s not hard – fillet steak is cheaper by weight than my old cat’s k/d.)

    I doubt that my expenditure on these foods would come within cooee of their annual upkeep in vaccinations and vet checkups and tooth cleanings and flea and worm treatments, and drugs when they are sick. Yes, keeping a pet is a luxury if you’re going to do it responsibly. Regardless of what you feed them.

  8. #8 Thomas
    April 27, 2010

    I find it interesting how many people seem more upset if you spend “too much” on your pet or give money to the “wrong” charity than if you just spend your money buying a new TV or buying a luxury vacation, or what about ludicrously expensive wine, chocolate and caviar you might also find in that store? How does that compare to helping the homeless?

  9. #9 Kea
    April 27, 2010

    As the commenters make clear … Hell is right.

  10. #10 Sharon Astyk
    April 27, 2010

    Well, not a fan of the fresh meats for pets in the fridge case, but I’m also not a fan of industrial pet food. The reason is that feedlots lose one out of every seven cows to the incredible toxicity of feedlot life. Looking at the numbers on CAFO meat profitability, it becomes clear that without a market for downed cows to pay for the marginal losses, feedlots wouldn’t be profitable, and they wouldn’t be able to exist in a way that kills so many cows and makes them inedible even by the really pathetically low standards we have for meat for humans.

    I have no idea what’s in those fresh meals, but if it is offal from non-feedlot animals, as is often the case for high end pet products, that’s probably in the net a better thing than keeping the feedlots in business, given that they do plenty of harm to the poor as well.

    I haven’t done a piece recently on the implications of pets and our meat impact – I should, it is both horrifying and fascinating.

    Sharon

  11. #11 Brandon
    April 27, 2010

    The most amusing part is the dog doesn’t even know the difference. Like it cares whether its meal was individually packaged.

  12. #12 Moopheus
    April 27, 2010

    Or we could give the leftovers to animal shelters. Due to the economic upheaval, a lot of people have had to make the tough choice between feeding themselves and their pets; shelters are overflowing. Maybe the packages could have pictures of shelter animals on them.

  13. #13 Michelle
    April 27, 2010

    I’m pretty sure dogs can distinguish the difference between dry kibble and moist food. The same way you now the difference between cereal and chicken. Whether this food is healthier for them or not is debatable, but what’s wrong with wanting to care for your pet if you can afford it?

  14. #14 Tyler
    April 27, 2010

    Apparently one can make the money is better spent on X than Y fallacy when it comes to pet food. Nice to know you have a double-standard Zuska. I’m not trying to be antagonistic, just… pointing out the double-standard here. You criticize men(or at least posters with male usernames) for making the same fallacy when it comes to gender-equality.

  15. #15 Margrizabeth
    April 27, 2010

    For cats, at least, most commercial foods (including most commercially-produced “fresh meals”) contain a high percentage of grain, and therefore wreak havoc on the health of the cat. After reading up on this a while back (when we rescued our cats), I came to the conclusion that feeding them kibble would be tantamount to animal abuse. Cats’ bodies are not built to digest a lot of grain, and commercial diets very often result in diabetes, obesity, hormonal disorders, etc. (just as with human beings).

    My husband and I are vegan. But our cats are obligate carnivores. We live in a city, and letting them outside to hunt for food would drastically shorten their expected lifespans. We pay significantly more money to buy them the least-bad “fresh” meat we can find (or afford), usually rabbits grown on a small regional farm specifically for pet food, or (supposedly) “cage-free” chickens. It’s not a perfect situation, but what is?, and we do our best. We sacrifice other luxuries (like what Thomas mentions, above), in order to afford this, for the wellbeing of our companion animals. I don’t think it precludes us from being decent people. At least, it doesn’t prevent us from donating money to charities that benefit human beings. Which seems to be how you are measuring decency, here?

    In any case, just because a person concerns herself with human welfare doesn’t mean she has to treat animals like crap. (In fact, I suspect that mistreatment of animals highly correlates with mistreatment of *human* animals, particularly of the female gender.)

  16. #16 Zuska
    April 27, 2010

    Perhaps some commenters here are unaware that I have two cats, and struggle myself over how to ethically feed them.

    The grocery store display horrifies me on many levels, the least of which is the notion that people are spending money to feed their pets, because I believe that pets do have a positive role to play in lives of humans – though I look forward to Sharon’s promised post on the topic. I just don’t think we need to devote refrigerated grocery store space to processed, packaged food for pets – which also implies refrigerated transport, not to mention the time, effort, and research and development funds that went into developing the processed, packaged pet food, and the extra packaging that will end up in a landfill somewhere.

    As with humans, so with pets – processed, packaged, individual meals are more resource intensive at every step of the way and more costly to the consumer per meal. Money spent on Fresh Meals For Pets means less money available for anything else. And spending money on those meals is a vote of support for the industry that produces them and damages the environment in the process. All that is true no matter how one feels about the rightness or wrongness of any one person having a pet.

  17. #17 Bethany
    April 27, 2010

    Our little shelter cat “Shelly” gets dry kibble in the economy bag. She’s never known anything else, aside from the occasional nibble of scrap left on a plate post-meal. Anything more than a couple of licks upsets her delicate tummy.

    I view our relationship as thus:

    We grant her the luxury of never having to fight for her life or scrounge for food. Her benefits include a multitude of snuggle places to nap, all of the toys she cares to hide and two people who dote on her constantly.

    In exchange she gives us affection and amusement. We love our little house guest and are quite pleased that she thrives in our company, despite the fancy-free fare.

  18. #18 Michelle
    April 27, 2010

    However, if you read the information about the processing of these food on the FreshPet website, and you take their words at face value, then you would see that there is actually LESS processing in these meals (2/3 less according to their calculations) than in dry kibble. They don’t use processed ingredients and they lightly cook their food instead of heating it to the dehydrated kibble we typically feed our pets (we includes me). So this seems like it would be LESS resource intensive than dry kibble.

    Further, it looks like these are packaged in plastic, which is likely recyclable. The paper bags that dry kibble comes in is not recyclable (unless you separate the inner from the outer lining of the bag – but the inner lining is not recyclable). So I don’t follow the comment about the extra packaging ending up in a landfill. Canned food containers are recyclable, but so is plastic shown here.

    Do you know whether food processing or refrigerated transport has the larger carbon footprint?

  19. #19 ambivalent academic
    April 27, 2010

    What gets me is that even if you adhere to one of these “raw foods” diets for your carnivorous pets (by many accounts healthier for them, though I feed mine primarily meat-based kibble and they are all very healthy either because or inspite of this diet), these packaged and processed “fresh meat” pet foods are dollar for pound more expensive than a truly raw and fresh inexpensive cut of meat in the butcher section of your local grocer (not sure about the price breakdown at the farmer’s market but I just found out that one of the local growers will bring packages of cheap “dog cuts” to the market for pickup on request). No need for extra marketing or packaging – just buy what’s on sale in the butcher case. You’ve saved much of the environmental impact and have more dollars left over for whatever else you spend it on.

  20. #20 Otto
    April 27, 2010

    “I just don’t think we need to devote refrigerated grocery store space to processed, packaged food for pets – which also implies refrigerated transport, not to mention the time, effort, and research and development funds that went into developing the processed, packaged pet food, and the extra packaging that will end up in a landfill somewhere.”

    Doesn’t most refrigerated grocery store space imply refrigerated transport, not to mention, time, effort, and R&D funds for processing and packaging?

  21. #21 skeptifem
    April 28, 2010

    Thomas- I don’t know where you got the idea that people who are angry at the fresh pet food are ok with huge tv sets and luxury vehicles. I for one, am not. I think it is all terrible.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famine,_Affluence,_and_Morality

    There is a link to the entire essay at the bottom. It is very much worth a look.

  22. #22 HP
    April 28, 2010

    I saw this post this morning, drafted a comment, reviewed it, and deleted it without posting. But it’s been bugging me all day.

    Here’s the deal: Peaseblossom has been my companion for over twenty years. She has been sweet and thoughtful and judgmental and violent by turns. She is incredibly smart for a cat and incredibly dumb for a human, and charming and affectionate when she wants to be, and thoroughly wonderful at all times. She has always had a great sense of humor, in that if some felid behavior makes me laugh, she will repeat it over and over until it’s not funny any more. She has survived her adoptive brothers and sisters by several years, and she is a boon friend to me. We love each other.

    And now that she’s 147 in human years, and suffering from the weaknesses that flesh is heir to, I don’t want her to slowly starve to death because she can’t chew kibble and canned food gives her gas. Her organs will shut down soon enough, and I will be left behind to grieve, but in the meantime she can eat refrigerated cat food.

  23. #23 Jim Thomerson
    April 28, 2010

    A little humor here. We had cats and they were having kidney problems. A cat savy friend said we were feeding them too much dry cat food. Took her advice. A couple of months later we were talking and she mentioned she was having kidney problems. (You can anticipate . . .) I told her to quit eating so much dry cat food, and we had a good laugh.

  24. #24 DSKS
    April 28, 2010

    Are these meals supposed to appeal to the organic crowd at all? I dunno, I mean let’s face it buying food for pets ethically dubious no matter where you’re shopping. It’s either “white fish/tuna” that’s been hauled out of over-fished waters or the cartilaginous detritus of badly regulated meatpacking plants. Or, in the case of kibble, barely digestible pills of protein-supplemented cellulose and corn-related matter.

  25. #25 Cara
    April 28, 2010

    You criticize men(or at least posters with male usernames) for making the same fallacy when it comes to gender-equality.

    Wow. Quite a leap of (non) logic, there, scooter. The coherency fail is also spectacular.

  26. #26 Cara
    April 28, 2010

    And ON topic, I have no idea which kind of food is better for pets, but I agree that it rankles a bit (on a primitive subconscious level) to see refrigerated pet food when people are still starving.

    I save my real wrath for pet owners who refuse to neuter their male animals because “they’ll lose their personality”.

  27. #27 Cath the Canberra Cook
    April 29, 2010

    From my point of view I’m not supporting an evil meat packing industry, because the refrigerated cat food that I buy is kangaroo. It’s not processed, not full of cereals, and it is definitely cheaper then the meat graded for human consumption.

    High protein diets is actually a problem for cats with kidney disease – the order of preference I have ben given by the vet is 1) wet k/d prescription food 2) dry k/d prescription food 3) wet commercial catfood (for older cats if possible) 4) dry commercial catfood (for older cats if possible) 6) anything that they will eat, including fresh meat. Kidney diets for humans are a hilarious reversal of the usual healthy eating guidelines – avoid whole grains, bran, bananas, dark leafy greens, dairy, nuts, lentils, dry fruits, restrict fluids…

  28. #28 Zan
    May 4, 2010

    I’m very fortunate that as a snake owner I can raise food for my own pets. My prey colonies are treated as well as my pets because even prey animals deserve to be no less happy or healthy during their own lives.

    It changes your perspective somewhat when you’re responsible for caring for the prey animals that will feed your pets one day. In wanting the best for your pets it makes you address the needs of your prey animals in a better and more informed way since their health and well-being determines how well your pets will thrive.

    One part I personally struggle with is killing the prey animals to feed one of my pets or to save some for later meals. No matter how I do it I’m forced to acknowledge that in order to keep one life going I must end the lives of others.

  29. #29 veganrampage
    May 7, 2010

    I have the same gut reaction Zuska, and I have spent much time pondering this subject.
    Keeping a clowder of cats make me a hypocrite of the highest order. I should be rescuing discarded Easter rabbits, and I recently did. She was a joy to know, and we miss her terribly.
    To properly take care of a lagomorph is a very expensive proposition.
    I am poor, disabled, single (got out alive),and child-free as well as having made the massive mistake of being born female.
    These characteristics make me a less than valuable person in this society’s eyes.
    Screw em’ all.
    Krishnamurti said “to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society is no measure of health.” That’s about all I know of him, and all I need to.(He made terrible first impressions apparently; don’t know if this is true but found it way too funny-wink, wink nod,nod.)
    In this violent, insane, patriarchy we live in (The VIP)it is impossible to lead an ethical life.
    Just do the best you can do, and try not worry about it too much.
    If only I could follow my advice.