Dog food for lunch?

Anne Kadet, a columnist based in Manhattan, New York, goes “to the local PetSmart, which is dog food heaven. There are four aisles of kibble and canned, not to mention an astonishing array of snacks – bacon chews, dried sweet potato slices, deer antlers. It’s all very tempting and a bit overwhelming.” As a paleo dieter, it “costs a fortune” living off of meat, vegetables, and eggs.

pet smart
The largest pet food chain store in the United States. Creative Commons License.

Noticing her dog’s high-end kibble, Ms. Kadet did the unimaginable. She went on a plan to eat off dog food for an entire week. It costs “85 cents a meal” that is “high in protein, [and is] grain-free and gluten-free.”

While urban life is extravagantly costly, the edibles aimed for pets are not. Despite being a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Ms. Kadet took some time to truly investigate what this pet food dieting was all about.

For Ms. Kadet, this was just an experiment to understand what it’s like to live off of pet food. But for a small number of impoverished Americans, this diet is their lifestyle. 

Such diets are not just a recent phenomenon, however, for they have been documented in American society at least since the late 20th century. The 1974 Beaver County Times reported that the “soaring prices [were] driving the poor, particularly old people with fixed incomes, to eating cheap dog and cat foods.” Increases in wages only tightened up the squeeze on “the truly poor” by driving up the cost of produce. It was a struggle to survive for those with fixed incomes. These indigent people of the United States were already consuming foods of lower cost and lower quality, so there was practically no other solution other than switching to foods that aren’t designed for human consumption – the edibles designed for our pets.

cashier
Cashier lines where many of us don’t realize just how much money we spend on groceries. Creative Commons License.

There are documented cases of seniors eating pet food recently. The WBOC website (an affiliate Columbia Broadcasting system in Maryland, USA), wrote about seniors in Kent County, Delaware, who are “strapped for [their] cash” and have no other option than to scout around pet food aisles. When a monthly income of about $1,500 for these seniors is used to pay for mortgage, “supplemental insurance, prescriptions, and other bills that total the average of $1,400,” the $85 left is barely sufficient. This results in an unfortunate number who “spend one dollar on three cans of dog food instead of one can of tuna.”

With this kind of dieting, many people don’t realize that the basic principles of food safety in our grocery stores applies to pet food as well. Animal foods, like human foods, are required to “be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled” according to the FFDCA (Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act).

Although not the ideal diet, it is supposedly not harmful for people to eat pouches of pet kibble and canned meat products. But the bigger issue is how to address food insecurity so that all may live, and eat, with dignity.

Author: Christen Yu

Christen Yu is a senior and one of the co-editors for the eye this year. She has been a student at Singapore American School for fourteen years, and despite having been born in Southern California, she considers Singapore her home. A few of her favorite things include wasting time and money on Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise episodes, and overusing the snapchat dog filter. She finds happiness in drinking bubble tea, and making friends laugh. She can be contacted at yu18985@sas.edu.sg.

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