Thursday, March 12, 2015

Should We Throw Out 25% of the Meat?

We used to use everything on a pig, even the squeal. That was not only considered good and sensible, but smart and environmental. Now the finicky folk are trying to make us throw it all out as waste. Is that the right idea? 

I raise the issue because in Finland, Food giant Kesko has been forced to rename it meatballs "balls" because the meat that was in them was mechanically separated.

"Mechanically recovered meat cannot be described as meat. It’s mechanically separated from the bone after the parts that can be defined as meat have been removed from the carcass with a knife," said Ruokakesko’s product research manager Heta Rautpalo. Some of the company’s product range includes meatballs whose meat content has been defined as zero, according to the packaging information, even though they claim to contain pork and chicken. Rautpalo said the company isn’t looking to mislead consumers. "These balls (sic) have the equivalent of 52 percent meat. However according to current legislation, they aren’t those parts of the animal that can be described as meat," she explained.

In the world of dogs, we have idiots telling us that "dogs are wolves" (no they aren't), and that wolves only eat meat (no they don't), and that they always eat only the choicest cuts (complete nonsense).

The result is dog food that is not only more expensive, but may be less healthy as it is likely to be untested, unbalanced, and come from a lick-and-stick company that does not even make its own dog food.

Meanwhile, over in the vegetable aisle, nothing can have a spot or a bruise; every tomato, pepper, potato and eggplant has to a perfect and glistening under the sprayer.  And what is happening to all that is not?  Who knows!


Gaddy Bergmann said...

I love your blog, Terrierman, but I disagree with you on this one: dogs are domestic wolves. They are genetically very close (less than 1% different, well below the species level), and are still fully interfertile (in contrast with other Canis species, the coyote, golden jackal, and Simien jackal, which have reduced fertility when hybridizing with dogs and wolves). Dogs and wolves belong in the same species (Canis lupus), and both are equally related to the aforementioned Canis species.

Wolves and dogs are both carnivores, but that doesn't mean they are as strict carnivores as felids, which need an even higher percentage of meat in their diet than canids, which in turn need more meat than bears and raccoons (and humans). Dogs also appear to be able to process more starch than wild wolves, an adaptation to living with people. So, domestic dogs may be a bit more omnivorous than their wild conspecifics, but that doesn't mean they aren't still carnivorous. Some starches and vegetables may be appreciated as a smaller part of the diet, but most of the diet should still be high-protein animal matter.

CrlWln said...

I FEED RAW TO MY TWO shepherds, with attention to veggies and such. I certainly wish I could get that 25% not used 'cause it would be delicious - grrr.

Heather said...

Gaddy - The genetic difference between humans and bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees) is about the same (99% shared genetic material) as the difference between domestic dogs and wolves.

Would you claim that chimpanzees and humans should be the same species?

In the world of genetics, 1% is a huge difference.

Wolves think and act much differently than dogs. Additionally, their physical anatomy is more different than their external appearance might indicate.

We know, from the fossil record, as well as oral and written history, that dogs have been very specifically selected for the last 10,000. In the human fossil record, that's the difference between Homo Sapiens Sapiens and Homo Sapiens Neanerthalensis.

Add to that, all the anecdotal evidence that a wolf most often will attack and kill a domestic dog and you have some pretty strong proof that even the wolf considers domestic dogs a different (and inferior) species.

Small things, like the ability to interbreed, don't necessarily prove that they are the same species. Mule deer and Whitetail deer are known to interbreed and produce fertile offspring, yet they are clearly different species.

Genetics are a funny thing and species determination is more than just a genetic designation. It is also a morphological and behavioral designation as well. There's a lot of debate in the scientific community about where and how to determine actual speciation events. However, something that all zoologists agree upon, as designated by the zoological terminology used, is that domestic dogs and wolves are, in fact, two separate species.

PBurns said...

Heather is right on the genes, but there is another way to look at it.

When it comes to dogs, I always figure the dogs are the experts.

So what happens when a wolf meets a dog?

Not romance, but lunch, with the dog as the main course.

As noted, wolves, dogs, coyotes, etc., do not interbreed except under the most "prison romance" kind of situation.

Of course a lot of things will interbreed under those conditions -- polar bears and grizzly (fertile), jaguars and American mountain lions (fertile), a bobcat and a lynx (fertile), buffalo and cattle (fertile), a leopard and a jaguar (fertile), etc.

See "Darwin Drives a Hybrid Animal" at >>

jeffrey thurston said...

The Bonobo/ Chimpanzee/ Human comparison with wolves and dogs doesn't hold- chimps and humans MAY be able to mate but even though some crazy Russian tried to do so in the last century he was not successful and the offspring would be at best like a mule- infertile. Google makes everyone an expert these days and my googling has shown me that genetics is very complicated but The Real Experts believe wolves and dogs to be the same species so I'll buy that. The difference in dog/wolf mitochondrial DNA is infinitesimal- "Canidea species indicated that "The domestic dog is an extremely close relative of the gray wolf, differing from it by at most 0.2% of mtDNA sequence.... In comparison, the gray wolf differs from its closest wild relative, the coyote, by about 4% of mitochondrial DNA sequence." (from Wikipedia). That doesn't mean that we have to call dogs wolves but it does mean that a dog is a kind of wolf- which even in the wild show great physical differences between populations. That being said it seems dogs are far more omnivorous than wolves- aren't there Pacific Islander dogs which are vegetarian almost?

PBurns said...

The real experts are the dogs and wolves. No web sites, degrees or books, but they KNOW that they are not the same species, and they show it and prove it in everything they do.

Mary Pang said...

I don't have a problem with mechanically retrieved meat; I enjoy chewing on bones and picking out the grungey bits of a chicken carcass. It's all dead animal.
I would draw the line at monkey brains though. I guess everyone has their limit.
Our dog had rice with his dog food, loved melon peel and enjoyed licking the porridge if we didn't come down to breakfast soon enough.

Gaddy Bergmann said...

Heather and PBurns, the information you posted is incorrect, while Jeffrey Thurston's comments are correct.

The last common ancestor between modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) and chimps and bonobos (Pan troglodytes and P. paniscus) lived around 5 million years ago. The genetic distance between humans and Pan species is relatively large at more than 2%. Obviously, humans and Pan species have some important similarities, but the differences are obviously also significant.

The last common ancestor between modern humans and Neanderthals (H. neanderthalensis) was H. heidelbergensis, which lived around 400,000 years ago. Humans and Neanderthals were similar enough to hybridize, and today it appears that all non-African humans have some Neanderthal gene introgression from hybridization events that occured some 50,000 years ago when modern humans left Africa.

In contrast, wolves and dogs are separated by only some 33,000 years. That's not much, and today wolves and dogs are only about 0.4% different genetically. The differences between wolves and dogs can be explained by small changes in the timing of maturity, the development of neural crest cells in the embryo, increased ability to digest starch, and natural selection in dogs for reading human body language. While these differences are important, they do not require much genetic change. In his famous experiments, Dmitri Belyaev showed the simply by selecting for tameness in red (silver) foxes (Vulpes vulpes), in a few generations you also get patchy coat colors, curly tails, and floppy ears. We now have domestic red foxes that look rather like border collies. Are they a separate species from wild red foxes? No, they have just been modified by selecting for tameness, and all that goes with it. But they're still foxes. Both wolves and common cats (Felis silvestris) probably domesticated themselves by hanging around human habitations, with the most tame animals surviving and developing a relationship with humans (see research by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger). Therefore, moving dogs from their own species (Canis familiaris) into a subspecies of wolf (C. lupus familiaris) is justified and logical.

Dogs and wolves actually share most of their behavioral repertoire. Yes, dogs bark more than adult wolves, but this can be explained by paedomorphosis, or the retention of puppy behaviors into adulthood (wolf pups bark). Otherwise, dogs and wolves have the same agonistic (dominance and submission) behaviors, and the same prosocial (play and appeasement) behaviors. Their closest relatives, the coyotes and jackals, are similar, but they have some significant differences in agonistic behavior. Coyotes and jackals use an open-mouthed, arched-back threat behavior that both wolves and dogs lack. Indeed, wolves and dogs are the only Canis species in that species complex that do not use this signal.

It's also not true that wolves just flat-out kill dogs whenever they encounter them. For one thing, wolves kill each other in territorial disputes, so such violence is not itself indicative different species. Moreover, wolves and dogs have actually been mixing with each other for thousands of years. In the following article, Kopaliani et al. (2014) show that Eastern European livestock guardian dogs show significant gene flow between wild and domestic wolf populations:

So, the dog is the domestic form of the wolf, just as house cats are domestic wildcats (Felis silvestris), cattle are domestic aurochs (Bos primigenius), sheep are domestic mouflon (Ovis orientalis), and so on. There are a few noteworthy differences between dogs and wolves, but that doesn't mean they're not in the same species. Dogs are wolves.

PBurns said...

People can type as much as they want, but the dogs and the wolves know they are not the same -- they vocally communicate differently, go into estrus at different times, eliminate differently, have different pack structures and hierarchies, etc.

Science recognizes they are different too. The ancestor of the dog is not the wolf but a now-missing proto-wolf that was probably a lot closer to the coyote.

"A widely held belief is that dogs evolved from gray wolves, but a new study finds that the common ancestor of dogs and wolves went extinct thousands of years ago.

What's more, the extensive DNA analysis -- published in the latest PLoS Genetics -- found that dogs are more closely related to each other than to wolves, regardless of their geographic origin. The genetic overlap seen today between dogs and wolves is likely then due to interbreeding after dog domestication.

"The common ancestor of dogs and wolves was a large, wolf-like animal that lived between 9,000 and 34,000 years ago," Robert Wayne, co-senior author of the study, told Discovery News. "Based on DNA evidence, it lived in Europe."

Of course, "it came from Europe" is also not necessarily true, as dogs were not "created" at one place but all over the world over a very long period of time. There is DNA evidence for Asian, the Middle East, etc.

More on it all at Nature >>

The botton line is that most animals do not fit neatly into the YES-NO boxes that people think they should, the clad-system of taxonomy is a human overlay, and when in doubt the "person" to ask is not a guy or gal in a lab coat, but the animals themselves.

And both dogs and wolves will tell you they are not the same. Here in the U.S., where wolves and coyotes are not common (and coyotes are endemic everywhere), there is very, very little interbreeding and a LOT of inter-species killing. The dogs know. Ask them.

PBurns said...

Another bit on the latest research which cautions that the "Just So" stories are just that -- Just So stories.

Here in the U.S., we have a very good idea of the difference between dogs and wolves because we have always had both. The Native Americans bred and had native dogs and, in fact, native dogs were the ONLY domesticated pack animal in the New World before Columbus. A village of a 100 people might have 1,000 dogs in attendance, and yet these dogs were NOT wolves nor were they descended from them. These dogs were dogs, kept in part to keep real wolves at bay while meat cured, hides tanned, and children played along the edge of all that is wild.

Did the native dogs look wolves? Yes, up to a point. But the natives had a quick and easy way to tell the difference with a glance -- native dog tails curved and were carried gay; wolf tales did not. Natural selection, as quick and as fast as you can nock an arrow.

Shannon Gentry said...

Great discussion (comments) stemming from your post about meatballs... You have interesting people following your blog and the comments they leave are also worth a look. Thanks for your energy!

PBurns said...

Gaddy, the paper you link to is about interbreeding and not breed origins.

I reported on this study when it came out, complete with pictures.

Again, to go back to it, the fact that two animals can interbreed does not mean much. The question is DO they do it very much? And the answer is NO. We know this, as we have scores of thousands of wolves in the US, and millions of coyotes (we kill 500,000 of them a year and the population is increasing!).

Gaddy Bergmann said...

PBurns, a couple points.

1) "People can type as much as they want"? Yeah, we're all typing here. I hope we're all thinking here, too.

2) I never said anything about "breed origins." I cited the Kopaliani et al. (2014) paper to show that there has been gene flow (interbreeding) between LGDs and wild wolves in Eastern Europe for thousands of years. So, I'm not sure why you're trying to contradict me, when that's precisely why I cited the paper. My point is that it's indicative of intraspecific mixing, as opposed to rare interspecific hybridization events. You say that "dogs know" they're not wolves, but what I see is wolves and dogs readily mixing when they have access to each other (in the absence of territorial conflict). For example, we know that black wolves get that color by mixing with dogs:

Moreover, some dog breeds (like northern sled dogs) appear more wolfy probably due to more recent mixing with wild wolves. The current genetic isolation between dogs and wolves could be a relatively recent thing (not to mention dogs' genetic isolation from each other). In addition, you don't get coyote (C. latrans) hybrids in the Western US. You get them in the Eastern US, and this could be because the eastern wolves still found there are not a subspecies of C. lupus, but another North American canid, C. lycaon or C. rufus (the two might be the same).

3) I am familiar with the Freedman et al. (2014) study. Although its results are important, it still don't demonstrate that dogs do not belong in the same species as wolves (Canis lupus). The authors looked at only three different subspecies of wild wolf from China, Croatia, and Israel (they don't specify the subspecies), justifying this choice by saying these are the three likely groups that contributed to the domestic dog. That's possible, although the wild wolf from which dogs descended could easily be extinct in the wild by now (an unfamiliar C. lupus familiaris, if you like). Another problem is that these authors didn't look at any other wolves, including probably the most basal living wolf, the North African (C. lupus lupaster, once mistakenly thought to be a form of golden jackal). How do all of these wolves cluster? What about other southern Eurasian wolf subspecies, like those in India and Iran? They didn't explore that. In any event, all of these animals are still very closely related, having diverged relatively recently, remaining genetically very similar, and retaining full interfertility. So, dogs may cluster apart from the three wolves in that study, but that still doesn't mean they're not domestic wolves.

PBurns said...

The question, to go back to it is this one: Are dogs wolves?

And the answer, as science has shown, is that they are not.

Yes, there is no question that they can interbreed. No argument there! But being able to interbreed does not make a grizzly a type of polar bear, or a zebra a type of horse of donkey.

Dogs and wolves have common ancestors, and those ancestors while apparently not extent, were around not too long ago -- maybe 30,000 years ago, maybe 100,000 years ago.

The fact that dogs are not very old, in terms of geologic times, confused a lot of people, but it shouldn't.

We know speciation is a process, not an event, and that speciation can be incredibly slow or incredibly fast -- the clock does not run at a universal rate or in one direction.

When the hand of man is involved, evolutionary morphological and behavior changes can be very, very rapid, as we see not only with dogs, but also with pigeons, sheep, cattle, pigs, horses, and chickens. In fact, it was the raid evolution of domestic stock at the hand of man that clued us into the possibility of natural evolution at the hand of time and natural selection.

A lot of the barriers to hybridization are not biological but cultural. Start with estrus. Most domestic dogs have a twice-a-year estrus cycle that is not tied to seasons. The estrus cycles of wolves and coyotes, however, are seasonal and occur only once a year.

Size is another issue. The average domestic dog is extremely variable in terms of size, but gray wolves are 70-130 pounds. When size differentials are big what happens next tends to fear and fighting.

We have 15,000 to 20,000 wolves in the U.S. and a coyote population of over 5 million. To put it another way, we shoot more coyote in the U.S. every year than TOTAL AKC canine registrations. And yet, the number of proven wild wolf-dog and wolf-coyote hybrids is very small. The "coy-dog" that is so often referred to is actually a coy-wolf, an animal that existed prior to Columbus (the Red Wolf of the east coast).

So, perhaps we are not disagreeing. The wolf and the domestic dog have common ancestors. That said, there is so much difference between them -- and they know it -- that they are very clearly "not wolves," a point supported by DNA, observation, behavior, history, and even law.

Gaddy Bergmann said...

I think our debate is a special case of the question, "Should domestic animals be considered separate species from their wild cousins?" For a long time, they universally were considered separate species. Wildcats were Felis silvestris, house cats were Felis catus. Aurochs were Bos primigenius, cattle were Bos taurus. Guanaco were Lama guanacoe, llamas were Lama glama. And so on.

Genetic testing has changed all of that. Not all animals can be domesticated, but those that have been domesticated have shown just how little change is needed, most of it having to do with embryology and maturation. So today, many biologists considered the wild and domestic forms of animals to be simply different subspecies within the same species.

If you're one of the folks who consider wolves to be Canis lupus, and dogs to be Canis familiaris, then I will respect your opinion. I, however, subscribe to the view that dogs (like the aforementioned animals) are still so similar to their wild relatives, that they should still be considered the same species. This is why I say that "Dogs are wolves." Sure, there are some differences between them, but then there are differences between Arabian and Canadian wolves, and they used to be considered separate species, too. The debate between the lumpers and the splitters rages on.

jeffrey thurston said...

Ha Ha! Just typing away here! And googling! I've read all of the cited articles in this discussion and I'm still not buying the dogs aren't wolves argument. The authors to the main article point to an event 9,000 to 34,000 years ago- a tiny amount of time evolutionarily and within (at the top end) of humans starting to farm. Whether or not the ancient wolves dogs evolved from were genetically exactly like the wolves of today still doesn't mean they weren't wolves. To me the article from June 2014 when the international team of lab-coat wearers reeks of the headline-inducing "science news" you've talked about in other posts. There is a great article by a teacher of evolution which talks about absolute and relative speciation. It's all a continuum as you say- but logically dogs are a form of the wolf...

Peter Apps said...

As one of the "guys in lab coats", maybe I can pitch in.

The % differences in genes between different populations, especially if those genes are in the mitochondria, is a proxy measure of how many generations have passed since the gene flow between the populations dwindled to negligible levels. Negligible gene flow coincides with speciation. Mitochondrial genetic difference usually correlates with, but is not causally connected to, how different two populations are in appearance, diet, ecology, etc etc. It is very common for organisms that appear almost identical to have profound genetic differences and to be good species in the sense that they do not interbreed. So the genetic (dis)similarity between dogs and wolves is a red herring.

The genes that influence what an animal looks like, what it eats, how it moves, etc etc are in the nucleus. Even among the nuclear genes the percentage that are the same or different between populations is not necessarily the cause of the differences or similarities between the animals - differences in a small number of genes that regulate the activity of others can cause major changes in end point. The high genetic similarity between chimps and humans despite their dramatically different biologies are probably of this type. So comparing nuclear genomes as a whole can be misleading also.

No organism sequences another's genes before deciding whether it is the same species as itself and therefore socially and reproductively relevant. Specific mate recognition signals (SMRSs) are very common. In frogs they are calls, in birds plumage and calls, and because humans can detect these calls and visual signals we do a very good job of separating species of frogs and birds. In mammals the dominant channel of communication is by smell, which we are not good at. Mammal taxonomy and systematics is based mostly on appearance, size and shape, geographical distribution, genetics etc, and although this often works well enough, the taxonomy of mammals is littered with species being split, lumped back together and split again as new taxonomic tools are developed and come into fashion. At any given point in time the taxonomist's species divisions are working hypotheses subject to revision. If we could decipher their species specific chemical signals our species boundaries would coincide with the real ones.

I prefer to ask the question in another way; are dogs similar enough to wolves that we can learn interesting and useful things about dogs by studying wolves (and vice versa). And, are dogs different enough from wolves that if we really want to learn about each species we should study them separately ? I think that the answer to both questions is "Yes".

jeffrey thurston said...

Thanks for some current style "scientese"! What you are saying is that everything is relative and blurred and subject to change. Nothing very concrete on the dog/wolf debate Mr. Labcoat! :) Alarm bells starting going off when I read the acronym "SMRSs". All the current BS sciences like Psychology and Neuroscience use this type of device to make simple (duh!) stuff seem sciencey and complicated. Call it UATSS (using acronyms to seem scientific). Ethology is one thing but it devolves into pop science BS when it intermingles with psychology. I get that dogs and wolves today are different- but logic and critical thinking tell us that although the dog is a wolf sculpted by neoteny and human breeding into a different creature today it is still basically a wolf...

Peter Apps said...

And good morning to you too Jeffry Thurston. If we were not on someone else's blog I would probably be less polite than I am about to be.

Maybe what triggered your little rant was "guy in a lab coat". Did you think that I was trying to make you feel inferior or something ? If it did make you feel inferior, I apologise.

Specific mate recognition signals have nothing at all to do with psychology.

The habit of dismissing as "BS" things (like neuroscience) that are too complicated for you to understand does you no credit, and it a widespread habit among scoffers and naysayers of all kinds.

If you want "concrete" answers then you had best stick to politics and religion, where manufactured certainties are a stock in trade. Science, including the biology of the differences between dogs and wolves, is always doubting, always looking for better answers than the ones we have now. That need not concern you, you know you are right and so you do not need to trouble yourself over the complications or the evidence.

As I said, this is someone else's blog so I am going to drop out now.

jeffrey thurston said...

Wow. I got me a lunker! Didn't mean to make you angry- hence the smiley face. My father was a "real" scientist who instilled in me a very sensitive Bullshit-O-Meter. I have worked around the medical field all my life and currently work at UC Berkeley. (I'm a worker-bee). In my lifetime I have seen the bankrupt "science" of Psychology transform itself (because it is constantly found out and ridiculed) into Neuroscience. Today in the halls of Berkeley I see earnest young grad students spray painting squirrels to study the "neuroscience" of food guarding or some such nonsense. Huge displays in the hall full of cute pictures of squirrels and scores of those acronyms - AFGB (Aggressive Food Guarding Behavior), CFGB (Cryptic Food Guarding Behavior) etc, etc. I see many angels dancing on the head of that pin but nothing very true! I see observation bias and finding out what you already wanted to prove. I have seen literally hundreds of file cabinets full of some old psychologist's research just dumped into the recycling dumpster- that's how valuable the knowledge he gleaned was. I see that psychology and behaviorism and sociology and neuroscience are interesting and fun possibly but they are NOT science. Jargonism and acronym making and complicated English do not impress me at all. In fact I'm willing to bet that given a set of fake credentials and some time and money I would have no problem writing a serious psycholgy or neuroscience paper- none at all. You don't have to lecture me about what science is- I heard that all my life growing up- I never said I wanted concrete answers- what I was trying to convey is that in that grey unknowable contradictory space of the unknown smelly fungi flourish- the BS sciences based on nothing. I get Science- believe me- and I hold in absolute jaw-dropped awe those real scientists like astro-physicists and chemists and paleontologists who practice it. Finally- what do you think- (by the way I am envious of your exciting lifestyle out there in the bush) of dog/wolf speciation? You never said...

Peter Apps said...

Well that's relief; "I get Science- believe me- and I hold in absolute jaw-dropped awe those real scientists like astro-physicists and chemists and paleontologists who practice it.", because I am an analytical chemist - a real scientist, Wow !.

To repeat:

"As I said, this is someone else's blog so I am going to drop out now."

PipedreamFarm said...

A genome-wide perspective on the evolutionary history of enigmatic wolf-like canids

This has some discussion on the genetic (dis)similarity between domesticated dog, wolves, coyotes, etc.

Species differentiation was developed using phenotypes not genotypes. I have yet to see a number as to how much measured genetic dissimilarity is necessary in order to say the genetic differences are between species.

firespinguy said...

PBurn wolves also eat stranger wolves that do not belong to their family pack that they kill, and even dead pack members. Cannibalism is not uncommon
for wolves. So I don't think eating a dog necessary means that wolves "know" dogs are different, just that whatever is
weak enough to be killed is ok to eat even if it is another canid.

Also there are present cases documented of wolves breeding freely with dogs: