Saturday, February 07, 2009

No Evidence One Dog Food Is Better Than Another

Consumer Reports asked experts at seven top veterinary schools whether pet owners should be paying a lot for fancy pet food brands, what ingredients they should be looking for, and what common claims on pet-food labels really mean.

The bottom line: Despite the fact that all but one had received some funding from the pet-food industry, they admitted that there isn’t any scientific evidence that pricier foods are better, or that cheap food can make pets sick.

"There's no scientific evidence that any food is better than the next," says Joseph Wakshlag, D.V.M., Ph.D., an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Consumer Reports goes on to note that most of the dog food debate is steeped in meaningless blarney and that "For pet food, there's no official definition of organic, human-grade, premium, no fillers, or gourmet."

In short, almost all the language used in dog food debates is bullshit, to say nothing of the claims themselves.

Finally, while the vet experts had not seen dogs or cats made sick by cheap commercial dog food, half had seen pets become ill from eating homemade pet food, due to contamination, spoilage, and the failure to serve dogs a balanced diet.

Of course, all of this is what I have been saying all along.

No area of canine discussion is steeped in more nonsense than the issue of nutrition.


Read my earlier post, Dog Food Secrets "They" Don't Want You To Know About, to get my send up of the dog food debate.

Of course, dog food instant-experts cannot be contained, can they?

Here is some real and recent correspondence to me from someone with a very elaborate dog food web site.

I had never heard of Sean Green before, or seen in his site, but he spammed me the following note:

Hello, I was checking out your website and I wanted to say great job, it looks real good and has some great information. I would be honored if you would link to my dog food reviews website at: I think this would be another factor that benefits your visitors. Please let me know if you are interested.

Hmmm.... I kind of doubted this fellow had taken more than two minutes to read anything I had ever written, but perhaps I was wrong and this was a genuine expert and a real authority on dog food. The web site sure was elaborate! I wrote back:

Are your a nutritionist? What is your background to be rating dog food? Based on what criteria?

Sean Green answered back:

Thanks for your reply back Patrick. I am not going to lie and say I have a bunch of formal education on pet nutrition, I don't.

Basically I started getting into Dog Food when I had a dog pass away and I believed it was from the food my mother was feeding. Over the last two years I have tried to educate not only myself but others on proper dog food nutrition. Its one of the reasons I added the forum to my website at:

Am I a nutritionist? No.... Have I done my homework? Yes...

Also I forgot to add in my original email when I find sites I like I add them to my directory at: and I would love to add your site if it is alright with you.

Hmmmm. OK. Let's try again. I wrote back:

You say corn is crap. Fair enough. Based on what?

What I am looking for here is research by real animal nutritionists working with live dogs who have published research in peer reviewed journals or at least serious academic publications, not put up web sites written by food fadists or holistic philosophers or dog food salesmen.

Why is corn worse than anything else? Based on what research by whom?

No reason for you to have run your own food trials or even have a degree in nutrition, but surely you have experts and specific sources for your recommendations?

I did a little quick looking, and could find no serious citations supporting the notion that "corn is crap." Quite the opposite, actually. See:

>> Journal of Nutrition

>> Science Digest

The number one trigger of allergies in dogs is .... beef.

Sean Green wrote back:

We could go back and fourth, you could provide reliable sources and I could provide reliable sources that say what we want. Its a very controversial subject. Anyways, thanks for the consideration to link to my website. I respect your decision and hope you the best in the future.

Eh? All I asked for was a citation or two to support the core thesis of his web site. Surely he has at least one or two? Let me try again. I wrote Sean:

I'm not looking to argue -- I really am not. I am simply looking for ANY serious scientific work to support your core point that "corn is crap".

Send me a link or two, and your case will be made, and there will be no argument from me. Promise. I am just looking for at least two reputable scientific studies that support the claim which, as far as I can tell, is unsupported by anyone actually doing real science on dog food.

And, of course, I got silence back.

And you know why? Because, as far as I can tell, there is no scientific evidence to support the much-repeated notion that "corn is crap" in dog food.

As Consumer Reports and the veterinary nutritionists at Cornell University note: "There's no scientific evidence that any [dog] food is better than the next."

Finally, a word about how all commercial bagged dog food is made: It is extruded and baked.

It seems that some dog food salesmen and dog food faddists are saying "baked dog food is better than extruded dog food."

Eh? Do these folks even know what the words they are tossing about mean?

Extruded means that a product is rammed through a small opening to form a shape. And it means nothing else.

Spaghetti is extruded, and so too are pretzels, butter sticks, fish sticks, most candies, the dough used to make loaves of bread, french fries, copper wire, nails and plastic pipe.

Extrusion is simply how something is made into a shape. It has nothing do with ingredients, cooking, or digestibility.

As for baking, all dry dog food is baked. All of it.

Baking is simply the process of cooking with dry heat, especially in an oven.

Bread is baked, pretzels are baked, bricks are baked, and dry dog food is baked as the video, below, makes clear.


To conclude, as I always do: Serve your dog whatever food you want, but recognize that paying more money and spending more time on your dog's food is not necessarily helping your dog.

Dog food obsessions are not about the dog; they are about the owners and their need to assuage guilt, become more involved, or demonstrate expertise or a heightened degree of caring for their pets. If folks want to waste time and money on that, they are certainly free to do so. But it's not about the dog.



YesBiscuit! said...

Two reasons I don't feed corn (YMMV):
1. Dogs can't digest it so it's a waste of my money to include it in their diet. (I feed mainly "table scraps" with some kibble and canned tossed in on occasion.)
2. Kibble made with corn has killed a number of dogs due to aflatoxin contamination. Since corn is a major source for the toxin, if I choose a food without corn, I am lowering the risk of feeding aflatoxin to my dogs.

That said, I do use corn meal, masa, etc to bake things for my dogs to eat. They seem to have no problem digesting the pulverized corn (in the form of powder). They love corn bread and biscuits and such.

Daniel Gauss said...

Funny you should use a Scottish Deerhound as your opening illustration. I have a (well known in deerhound circles) male Deerhound, Randir. He's eaten nothing but kibble most of his life.. including many years of Lamb and Rice from Sam's Club. Recently, in a budget move we've switched to Diamond food with no problems.. (although the Galgo has some digestive issues with it). And how has this diet shortened Randir's life? Well, he's only made it to 12 and a half so far! I've featured him in a recent video on our blog.. check him out.

PBurns said...

If you are talking about raw cattle corn, OK, but if you are talking about the processed corn that is in dog food (or sweet corn), this is nonsense.

Processed corn is easily digested by dogs, same as it is by humans.

Try the links offered in the post, eh? Pretty sure they work!

As for aflatoxin, I guess I would know a little about them as I studied fungus in college (yes, whole courses). Apergillus is found EVERYWHERE and it can grown on almost anything (including hosital walls, bread, rice, etc.) It is certainly not something unique to corn, and in fact it has noting to do with corn -- it's a type of fungus and it's what makes the blue-green mold on a sandwich left too long in the fridge (not all aspergillus results in aflatoxins).


YesBiscuit! said...

Thought I was clear but apparently not. I feed mainly table scraps so the corn that has been indigestible by every dog I've ever had is *regular corn that people eat*. Ground corn in powdered form I've had no problems with the dogs digesting, as I said. Why ya gotta be such a hater Patrick? I choose not to feed kibble containing corn, BFD. You (as in all of you in the whole wide woild) can choose to feed whatever you like. Yo I hope you're not gonna take me offa your link list hahaha.

PBurns said...

Ah then, no worries, and we still loves ya! :)

Table (sweet) corn will mostly go through a dog, same as it will mostly go through a human. There's sugar and carbs in there, for sure, but the pericarp layers of the corn are pretty tough, and unless there is a lot of chewing going on, a good deal of what goes in will come out the other end.

What happens with dog food, and all processed corn, is that the pericarp is pretty well blasted by processing, which means the carbs, sugars and nutrients are pretty easily digested.

There are, of course, many types of corn from sweet corn (many types) to field or dent corn (many types) to flour corn, pop corn, etc. Different corns have different properties to their pericarp layers.

I have no problem if folks don't want to feed corn; feed what you want! It's all good!

What's strange, however (and you are not making this argument), is when folks say corn is "unnatural" for dogs but decide that pumpkin, rice, potatoes, asian jungle fowl, and salmon are perfectly fine.

These same folks also ignore the fact that white folks, black folks and Asians did not "evolve" with corn. In fact, Europeans did not evolve with apples, pineappels and bannanas either, nor did they evolve with potatoes or pumpkins or peanuts, etc. Most of the food we humans eat in the world today is not part of our evolutionary stream. It is man-made or imported from far awaym and yet it is why we are taller, smarter, healthier and living longer than any other generation before.


Caveat said...

I'm fussy about my kibble because of all the recalls we've had.

I've fed the one I use for years now and would recommend it. Is it the cheapest? No, but it's not the most expensive either. I add scraps of whatever I'm having, if appropriate or if not, just feed it plain.

I avoid corn because it is the most genetically modified grain, is grown under pesticide-intense conditions, is not particularly nutritious and adds a lot of sugar to the diet.

It's also a cheap filler without much nutritional value - other than fibre.

That doesn't stop them from stealing the odd ear from my home grown patch in the summer though! I grow the highly modified Gourmet Sweet. And sweet it is.

PBurns said...

Sounds like a fine diet for your dogs, Caveat!

I am not sure corn can be called the most genetically modified plant -- it was mostly "modified" by stone-age people. The native population even had popcorn! The Native Americans had no wheel, no pack animals (other than the dog), and no metal tools, but they had several kinds of corn. Amazing, if you think about it.

Almost all of the foods you eat are HEAVILY modified. There are no "wild" tomatoes, potatoes, apples, or carrots that look anything like what you eat. And as for toxins, all plants have them: potatoes and tomatoes in particular. Corn, on the other hand, does not have very many naturally-occuring toxins which is why it needs to be sprayed. A lot of that spraying for corn-bore is actually not chemicals, but naturally-occuring bacteria (bt or Bacillus thuringiensis). Bt is in all soil (you have it in your yard), and is not toxic to humans. Right now about 20 percent of all feed corn is genetically-modified to be self-bt-fixing, and a lot of the rest is simply sprayed with bt.

Which is not to say that no chemicals or pesticides are used -- they are used on almost everything -- apples, strawberries, pumpkins, soybeans, raspberries, bannanas, coffee, oranges, and (yes) corn.

You eat all that stuff, including corn, even if you try very hard to eat only organic.

In fact, you even put pesticides on your dogs in the spring and summer (flea-tick medicine) and you probably dose them internally a couple of times a year for either heart worm or bowel worms.

I think a key prejudice people have against corn is that it is "cheap," and they think "cheap" means low-quality rather than low-priced. Processed corn is a VERY high-quality food and very nutritious. Yes, read that last sentence again. I stand by it. Nutrition actually means something. A plant with sugar is providing nutrition, a plant with carbohydrates is providing nutrition, a plant with fiber is providing nutrition. "Nutrition" does not mean micro-nutrients, nor does it mean protein or fat alone. It means ALL of it. And corn provides a LOT of EXCELLENT nutrition at a VERY low cost, which is why Americans are taller than we have ever been, why we are living longer than we have ever beem and (yes) why we are fatter than we have ever been. Is corn a complete diet? No, of course not! That's why fats are added to dog good, and protein, and micronutrients. All of it TOGETHER (along with digestability) is what determines whether it is a good diet.

Ironically, for both humans and dogs in America, the problem is generally not too low-a-quality in the food we are eating; it is that we are eating too damn much of it.

Me especially!!


Caveat said...

Well, some of these new varieties are pretty far removed from the 'original' corn - which is a grass, and a darned attractive one - I use it ornamentally, then eat the goodies as I do with most vegetables.

Yes, BT is completely harmless to us but not to larvae. That's why I am amused by some of the newbie enviro types who protest its use for gypsy moth and mosquito controls- every darned year.

Around here, before they plant corn (and potatoes) they kill everything in the field. They spray for borers, etc, and it isn't always BT. I wish.

I don't use any pesticides except some soap from time to time because I'm not growing enough to worry about pests and hand-pick or just ignore the few I get. If anything, I've found that the gardeners who use various products end up with more invasions than I do - because they are killing everything, beneficials and robbers alike.

I use Revolution for the dogs from June to October and haven't seen a flea since my Beardie died in '95. I think it's high compliance among pet owners in my area, much like heartworm - we always get a few reports but nothing like it used to be.

I'm not against corn (or pesticides, they make it possible to feed millions of people), I love the stuff. I'm just not sure it's good for dogs - often.

I still have (and enjoy) The Wonders of Life on Earth, which my dad bought me in 1961. There is a great spread in there on the development of corn - one of the earliest domesticated plants.

Back in the 50s, people fed their dogs canned food that looked like Spam (before Alpo came out and rocked the world), kibble that was basically hard tack, an egg once a week and table scrapings.

The dogs seemed to do OK back then.

Think of what most people ate in days gone by - food in season which meant root veggies and cabbage all winter, mushy apples from the barrel, lots of starch and not much else unless they were wealthy or lived on a farm or near the ocean.

I'm not sure it's the amount you eat but the amount you move around that dictates girth. Also, eating at home rather than in restaurants is better for you, as is eating whatever you want only when hungry and not going on any kind of diet, mostly because that makes people think about food all the time.

Works for me, anyway :>)

Cat, Tessie, & Strata said...

All I know is that after switching to a "higher quality" kibble, the build-up of plaque on my dog's teeth has completely stopped, and I am feeding HALF of the amount of kibble that I was feeding before. I have a 47lb dog that gets 1/4 a large can of dog food (just about any brand will do) and 2/3 cup kibble split between two meals. When I was feeding Iams, that amount would've killed her. (And my dog is not/has not been one of the 200lb blimps that you've mentioned in your past posts -- this is a healthy competitive agility dog.) Make all the arguments for grocery store kibble that you want, but I know I'm not the first person that's noticed my dog eats less of the somewhat more expensive food! (I now pay more per-pound, but less per-day.)

On another note, her stool size has dramatically decreased and is far less offensive in the odor department. I feel this has to do with the lower quantity of grains in the food I'm feeding now. I don't think that dogs can digest grains as well as they can digest meats, so it seems simple that more meat = more gets digested and utilized = less ends up in my front yard.

I know you have a major beef (no pun intended) with raw feeders, but my younger dog is fed raw and it was the only thing that cleared up his skin and coat allergies after unsuccessfully trying two "elimination diets" (where the dog is fed one protein source and not much else). That being said, I DON'T think it's what he'd be eating in the wild and I DON'T think my Sheltie is a wolf. ;) But I DO think it's beneficial that I know the ingredients that I'm putting into him!

Anonymous said...

So, are you saying that there is no difference, in terms of properly feeding my dog, between a super-premium brand like Merrick (Cowboy Cookout kibble, currently) and Safeway Priority or, perish the thought Western Family el cheapo?

There's no quantifiable difference in the quality/desirability of the ingredients?

I have a feeling your answer may be very depressing.....but enlightening.

PBurns said...

Cass Temp, etc...

When have I ever said a word against raw food? Not once!

What I have said is that most of the stuff raw food fadists say about *commercial* dog food is pure crap, rolled in ignorance, and not demonstrated by science. And that is a fact. It is also a fact that many raw food fadists have so little knowledge of nutrition that they are bombarding their dogs with salt (all those frozen chicken wings) and not giving them a balanced diet. Read that Consumer Report article, and the vet nutritionists say the same thing.

As for what you feed your dog, do what you want: that is the point of ALL the posts I have written about dog food. If "big poop" verus "small poop" is a big deal for you, then use the food with the most fat in it, and the least amount of roughage, and never mind that roughage is such an essential part of diet that it is probably one of the most important nutrients we are shorting in our own diets and our dogs.


PBurns said...

Foxstudio -- There may or may not be a difference (I am not reading the labels you mention), but probably not much of one.

People make a BIG deal out of reading the ingredients on the side of a bad, but in fact they are probably looking at the wrong part of the label. Corn is not "bad", beef and chicken are not "good", etc. More dogs are allergic to beef than anything else, and no feed trials or science-based peer-reviewed research (and this in a billion-dollar-a-year highly competitive industry) shows that corn is a problem as compared to anything else (millet, potato, venison, etc.) As for a "natural" diet for your dog, I am still waiting for someone to tell me they feed their dog on a diet of canned rats and mice supplanted with roadkill!

The imporant parts of a dog fod label are protein, fat, fiber, calories (this last one is not always listd). You will find most commercial dog foods are very similar, but that "high quality" (please note the quote marks as they imply cynicism) are loaded with more fat and less fiber. Question: Is that how you eat? Right. Didn't think so. And it's not necessarily a good diet. Natural canine diets have a lot of fiber (hide, hair, sinew, bone, muscle fiber, feathers, gristle) and wild animal meat generally has very little fat. What we are doing with "premium" dog food is finding a market for all that chicken fat and beef fat that we do not want to eat outselves because it is unhealthy. This is not to say that fat is bad: a certain amount is not only good, it is absolutely necessary. It is to say that what you want is BALANCE, and the more expensive foods are heavy with fats which pump in calories so owners can see "smaller stools" with their dogs. But is a small stool a sign of health in a dog? No, it is not. Look at all the hair in the fox scat I put up a week or so ago, or better yet go out and find a fox or coyote scat and pull it apart. I do this all the time, and as a consequence I do not sneer at the importance of fiber.

The more expensive "boutique" dog food brands generally offer LESS quality in my opinion, and for a simple reason: their production costs are higher since almost none of them make their own food, their spoilage rates are higher since food tends to lie around in pet stores longer, and they generally do not control their ingredient chain and often do not have anyone in the factory when the food is being made. Most of the toxic (poisonous) Chinese dog food was "premium" stuff for this reason, and it was a BIG ILLUMINATION for some that their premium dog food was being made sight unseen by a contract company that made the cheapest food sold at the Pick-N-Pay. Surprise! I had been saying this for years, as had some others, but it took a lot of dead dogs for the "proof" some people were looking for.

Another factor is that most of the smaller boutique brands have never actually run their dogs on a feed trial: they are simply selecting exotic ingredients because they sound better to the consumer (oooooh -- potatoes and pumpkin, beaver and venison, salmon and millet), and they mix and match ingredients to hit the protein, fat, fiber and micronutrient numbers needed to make the AAFCO minimum requirements.

I would look for a food that has passed an AAFCO feed trial, and never mind if those trials are not very rigorous; the company at least has paid to get them done. What does it say about a company that has not?

I would also go for a brand that has been around a long time and that is a dedicated dog good maker: a brand like Purina. Companies like Purina have real scientists and nutritionists on staff, have their own kennels, are doing continuous feed trials, and have a lot to lose if they screw up. Skip the brands you have never heard of, the brands named after minor TV personalities, etc. Stay away from anything but hard (baked) kibble: no soft pouches, etc.

Finally, let me say that WHAT you feed your dog is generally far less important than how much you feed your dog and what breed of dog you have. If you have chosen a breed that is a cancer bomb, or has widesspread liver problems or neurological problems, and you are obssesed with food, you are VERY confused and you are making VERY BAD canine health choices. Conversely, if you are running a fat dog and are obsessed with food quality, you are very confused and you are making very bad nutrition choices.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Patrick! I see what you are saying. And the recall certainly was a wakeup call when it was revealed that all those "low" to "high" quality foods were made at the same factory.

I've also been somewhat leery of the whole raw food thing, at least partly because of the fanaticism of many of the practitioners. They seem to have deluded themselves into believing that they are duplicating what a dog would eat in the wild. Corn and hormone-stuffed feed lot beef. Right. Christie Keith seems to be one of the few who knows what she's doing and why and sources her meat.

FWIW-my dog is a 75lb. rough collie, five years old. Fortunately, the collie fancy seems to not have collectively lost track of the importance of health and the breeders don't get ribbons for extreme "type". Maybe the gene pool is diverse enough to have avoided the really bad genetic problems, other than collie eye anomaly, which was traced back to one stud that everyone bred to before genetics were really understood. The fancy is working to eradicate it, to their credit.
Susan Fox

Anonymous said...

I do wonder, based on what you are saying, if the super-premium pet food market is at least partially driven by the humanization of dogs as "fur kids". Blech.


In a nutshell:


*****Foods that give our dogs will have to contain so rightly balanced all the nutrients they need. The nutritional requirements of the dog shall be calculated on the basis of various factors, to name a few: weight and size, activities, age, health status, etc.. E 'must distribute enough food to support both the dog in its daily activities is to prevent fatliquors too. The number of meals is an element to be considered in the right importance and must be determined by the physiological state of the dog. * ****

Having a dog with you means assure proper growth and the right to maintain it, so it is necessary that the feed contains the right amount of protein, vitamins, minerals and trace elements and the role of lipids and carbohydrates is to make l ' energy required.

Proteins are molecules consisting of amino acids useful for the construction and maintenance of the dog. Depending on a number of proteins may be more or less good and their value may be more or less high, it follows that a food with high protein level is not for this excellent food, but more or less in protein by an organism may be both a lack of energy, therefore the quality of food also depends on a balanced ratio of protein and energy components.

The energy is provided by lipids. For the fat cats are very attractive and well-tolerated, not because it may exaggerate the quantity offered daily, as for proteins fats are not all the same nutritional interest because they are widely different. It 'clear that some good fats in addition to providing energy can have other roles, are polyunsaturated fatty acids from vegetable oils or animal (omega 6essenziali to skin and hair) or from fatty fish (omega-3 important for the proper functioning of the nervous system and immune anti-inflammatory and under).

The carbohydrates are nutrients of plant origin and are essentially made up of monosaccharides, simple sugars (eg glucose), there are other carbohydrates such as pectin, resulting from oxidation of monosaccharides. Some of these carbohydrates are digested and assimilated by the dog (starch and sugars), others are not (or cellulose fibers) while maintaining a degree of importance given that stimulate and regulate intestinal transit.

Even minerals play an essential role, are able to interfere with digestive or metabolic level, thus ensuring a sufficient and balanced contribution.

Other elements are the essential vitamins. Just the partial or total failure of one of them immediately because the symptoms appear that if neglected can lead to disease.


When, for whatever reason, it is appropriate to change the diet of the dog is good considering that we must provide an adjustment period of 8 / 10 days to allow the dog to get used to the new taste and to make the intestinal microflora is delay in response to new needs.


The habit of watching your dog, check your appetite, behavior, growth, the condition of hair, excrements, the goodness of his diet is determined by these aspects.* * ****

Barf(Bones And Raw Food ) diet is excellent, but you must be able to use!

Change too often the food is harmful to dogs !

That's why the choice of products in exotic dog food (market survey 19 May 2008 conducted in Europe)

Enough with the "waste". Today the owners of dogs and cat food for their animals to the natural environment. The survey reveals Purina, which identified the target in the "Natural Balancers", "a transnational tribe ... which is your physical well-being in a natural balanced, able to integrate with the metropolitan lifestyle."


SeattleAmy said...

I have 4 of my own terriers ans 4+ fosters at any give3n time. My biggest concern gets down to poop!

I'm need a high calorie food so I don't have to store too many bags, but it can't cause diarrhea in the fosters, and the poop volume needs to kept under control...which also correlates to how well they are digesting the food.

The no grain food made everyone loose too much weight - think of a long distant runner without any carbs...doesn't work.

After taking a dog to a trial and forgetting to bring dog food, the food needs to be readily available too! No rare, boutique brands can be found in the middle of no where!

I've tried just about every one out there and always end up coming back to NB primarily because of the low poop volume while maintaining weight and health of the dogs. If I get a dog allergic to chicken (very typical in terriers), they have 5 pound bags I can pick up!


PS - Fosters come in eating anything and everything and I've only seen one brand that didn't appear to be a "decent" dog food!


The diet based on beef, chicken meat and rabbit meat have never problems my dogs, sometimes add milk and bran!

Billy he was adopted , has had problems the first few days for the change of diet ! hours, so good!

Even when I use the dry food using a product line that includes 2 variations!

crocchè for the summer period (Period not working)! Crude protein ............. 22.5%
period Winter (Working)Crude protein ......... 29.00%

No problem!

They are not dogs to once! Modern selection!

Ps. My sponsor and a butcher!;)


Rocambole said...


If you're going to pick "the New World Veggie That Improved World Nutrition," I'd pick the potato over corn any day.

From a subsitance viewpoint, potatoes give you more nutrition in less space and less effort and are much eaiser to reproduce than any grain.

Corn works when you have an intrastructure. You need 200 plants to prevent inbreeding depression, it requires huge amounts of water and nitrogen to produce a decent crop and while it's not as bad as any of the alliums, it can't take competition so you have to weed, weed, weed. Also, everything likes it, so you have both insect and critter competition.

Then, once you've got a harvest, corn can only be a part of your diet becuase it doesn't have the nutrient profile humans need to thrive. (Compare the Irish with 5 pound of potatoes and a quart of milk a day to both of our Appalachian ancestors, living on cornmeal mush and the occasional wild game).

Now there's money in corn because, of course, everyon likes it. But, part of the reason that there's money in corn is that you really do need space to grow it well, so if you don't have the right conditions (which many peasants did not and many sustistance growers still do not), it's not worth the time and effort.


PBurns said...

Corn has two main advantages over potatoes: It can be grown over a pretty wide area in the temperate world, and it can be easily stored for years without special dryers, etc.

Potaoes, it turns out, need COLD wet summers and there are not too many places that do well on that score -- Ireland, Maine, the Andes, and and Idaho are famous.

You are more than right when you say that you can get more food out of an acre of potoes than anything else on earth -- it's completely astounding what a productive plant the potato is. And, on the upside, thanks to genetics (old-fashioned and new-fashioned), we now have potatoes that can be grown in a place as warm as Virginia, and which are largely rot-disease free.

Now, as for booze-making potential ... THERE's a debate!!


Anonymous said...

Well, being a dyed in the wool cynic -- first I'll venture to say that *most* vets know as much about nutrition as the dog food manufacturers want them to. And that basically consists of "trust AAFCO / sell Science Diet."

Then I'd like to add that while calories may be calories and vitamins may be vitamins there is an enormous difference in the quality of ingredients used in different foods. I've been to facilities that make ingredients and additives used in cheap, generic dog foods and they are, in nearly every case, factories whose primary business is blending and compounding non-food - and sometimes highly toxic - industrial chemicals. Bulk materials of *all* types are moved around these plants by the same equipment and hygiene is not a concern (at least to the plant operators.)

Finally, as a scientist I'll add that if we're going to accept the anecdotal evidence of some dogs fed for a lifetime on Old Roy who live to great ages as "proof" of the food's quality, I'll offer that in a decade of dog training I've seen a consistent pattern where dogs fed on kibble that contains corn products behave in noticably less hyperactive way when they're taken off those foods. I'll also lay odds that my pupulation of n=100's is bigger than yours ;-)

PBurns said...

I am interested.

Name a single major dog food manufacturer with factories "whose primary business is blending and compounding non-food - and sometimes highly toxic - industrial chemicals."

Do you remember the address or location of this establishment? The reason I want the address or location is that I will see if I can get a reporter or news crew to visit and write a story on it. I know of entire factories making non-FDA approved children's cough medicines (the case is still under seal), but the dog food thing is a simple "holy crap" story we can go public with pretty quickly if it really exists. I know someone at Bloomberg who would jump at it, I think.

As far as I know (and I have looked), all the major dog food companies (and even the minor ones) are in the FOODS business, and nothing else. Most are only in the pet foods business.

As for corn, I will let the scientists in this area, and the manufacturers speak on this issue themselves. The simple fact is that there is NOT ONE peer-reviewed science-based study to support what you are saying, and this is in a highly competitive billion-dollar a year industry where that research would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Why does the research not exist?

Simple: the anecdote you offer is not supported by science, any more than a cat walking under a ladder is proven to result in bad luck. People will believe what they want, of course, but cohort analysis, longitudinal feed trials and chemistry tends to straighten things out over time.

As always, feed what you want, but if you have names and addresses or peer-reviewed science-based studies, I am very interested.


Anonymous said...

"Name a single major dog food manufacturer with factories "whose primary business is blending and compounding non-food - and sometimes highly toxic - industrial chemicals." "

That's a straw man.Pet food manufactuers, large and small, do not make all of their own ingredients. They buy them from other companies (like the Peanut Company of America) and then blend them into products. I can't name a single pet food manufacturer who makes and blens industrial chemicals -- but I could name several *ingredient manufactuers* who do.

You have no idea how much I would love to give you this information, but the work I did at these facilities was completed under attorney client privilege or other confidentiality agreements and they are still binding (especially since no laws were being broken). If you want to see my pre-dog training resume let me know, it's about 20 pages long and includes graduate work in environmental chemistry and toxicology.

My point in bringing up the issue with corn and dog behavior was to illustrate the point you tossed back at me: anecdote is not evidence.

And for the record, I have less faith in AAFCO than I do in the FDA.

Your mileage may vary.

PBurns said...

OK, you know of no dog food companies that are really chemical companies making horribly toxic things on the side.

But you say you know of horrible chemical companies that make ingredients that go into dog food. Not necessaily toxic ingredients, but ... and you cannot name anything.

Ughhhh... Everything is a chemical, but I will play chemistry with you. I took environmental chemistry in college (pre-requisite was organic), and I will bite: Name one chemical company that makes additives for dog food that does not also make additives for human food. There is no confidentiality agreement there as there is not trade secret or non-public information.

And tell me when that dog food additive (or any additive made in America) was proven by science to be seriously toxic and only put in dog food. That will be public information too if it occurred.

I really am looking for specifics, because I really HAVE read a lot, and everyone seems to have this "secret knowledge" that I cannot find and no one will share when asked. It's liked the corn stuff: asked to give ONE science-based paper with real dogs, and it all falls apart.

And, for the record, I am in the secrets business and I am not asking you to give me anything that is covered in any confidentiality agreement anywhere. I am asking you to name one chemical company that makes dog food ingedients that does not also make human food ingrediets, and to name one example of toxins, made in America, that went into dog food alone. And there is no way you have worked for every dog food ingredient maker in America nor is any dog food maker making a unique product. The products are so NOT unique, that the TRUE EXPERTS in veterinary diets and nutrition at places like Cornell say it is all the same!


Anonymous said...

I'll take your class in environmental chemistry and raise you a pile of doctoral work and over a decade as a 6-figure consultant in the field (including work as an expert witness).

I do know what I'm talking about and I cannot give you names because confidentialy agreements apply to all work I did at these sites and they are still binding.

In fact, I was deposed by a little group called Halliburton just over a year ago -- this was after I had been retired for 5 years. The b**tards sent several attorneys up here to bully me. I won that round, but I'm not fool enough to go looking for a rematch.

Sorry Pat, but I'm not going to risk getting dragged into what could be a very expensive, ugly and long drawn out legal issue to win a debate on the interwebs.

PBurns said...

I am not questioning your education; I am questioning your claims (there have been two). And so far, they stand unsupported. You have no offered no evidence of nefarious chemicals in dog food, nor have you offered any evidence that corn is bad. Not a single study has been cited by you (or anyone else, I should add) to back up such claims, and I keep asking.

You are worried about Haliburton's lawyers? Not me. Google my name and Haliburton and see what you get. Haliburton's just another company in my world. I got real Iraqi mercernaries calling me, and they don't rock my world much either. You either have the goods or you don't; you can either win it on facts, or you cannot.


Connemara said...

Interesting topic and exchanges going on here -

Pat? What did you do that you have "mercenaries" calling you? I am more interested in that than the dog food topic now. (grin)

PBurns said...

Try my name and Google and Iraq fraud, as I mentioned in the previous comment. Do the same with my name and pharmaceutical fraud or Bernie Madoff, and you will see I am a bit involved in secrets and litigation ;)


Unknown said...

First off you have a fantastic website here. I have no idea how I came across it, as I was looking for something completely unrelated, and ended up here....and read and read and read, and after reading so much I just had to write something, normally writing to things like this is completely out of character for me.

For a little background I am not a dog nutritionist, or veterinarian. I am however a certified trainer and handler, and I come from a family with a very long history of keeping dogs, I have worked with mira, trained dogs for various police forces around North America, I have brought hundreds if not thousands of dogs to show, and a few of the dogs I have worked with have even done some hollywood appearances.

I have NEVER bought a specific brand of dog food to give the dogs I work with, I have NEVER encouraged an owner to get a specific brand of food. Its funny because this is one of the first questions that comes up from any first time dog owners, its not a bad thing I think its great that owners want to give their little furry friends the best they can, but I always give them the same response....your dog will tell you what the best food is for them.This is usually when I get the whole this guy is crazy look followed by a "well what do you mean???" with a slight hint of sarcasm. And I tell them straight up, you try different food with the dog until you find whats right for the dog, this will be based on energy level specific to breed, their coat, their eyes, the dogs odor, as well as the amount of stool they pass, and basically is it healthy stool.

In all the years I have worked with dogs I have seen some that just seem to thrive on the higher priced stuff don;t know whats in it but they just do better on it based on the criteria I mentioned earlier. But I also see alot of dogs that can't digest the higher priced stuff, they get the runs, throw it back up etc etc, and end up on the cheap no name stuff.

Just an example, I currently have a 124lbs, mastiff/APBT mix, who is 8 months old, and I am feeding him Kirkland kibble from Costco, I tried several different brands until landing on this, and he is one of the healthiest best looking dogs I have ever seen.

So yeah don't listen to marketers, and what not listen to your dog, they will let you know when they have found a food thats right for them.

Unknown said...

Interesting comments. However, corn is still a grass by definition, same as wheat, barley, rice, oats, so on. That is why one can spay 2-4,D Herbicide on young corn and get away with it. That is a selective herbicide for broadleaf plants and does not affect grasses. Doesn't affect sandburrs nor other weeds not wanted tha belong to the grass family either. Corn that is modified for being Roundup ready is also immune to the herbicide but this one will kill all vegetation, including grasses, that are not resistant to it. Roundup breaks down very quickly in the soil to form CO2 and water.. very quickly. It can be used around vegetable gardens to control weeds (ALL) as long as you keep it off your vegetables. Nothing wrong with corn! Been around thousands of years, and even in recent years has been hybridized and altered though breeding to be better, do better. Ground up it is one of the better food sources and is not that expensive to grow per calorie of nutrition.

pvint said...

Hi - and thanks for the article. I'm in the process of researching possibly better food for my healthy old boy, and in searching for articles that are not full of biased opinions I came across this. Well done.

While you may have actually made my search harder by raising more questions in my mind, it was really refreshing read.

It's tough to fight through all of the bullshit and find any meaningful information. Reading on now on the links you provided.