Recently, the company DogsBar, which makes nutrition bars for dogs, sent promotional samples of their product to 15,000 Hollywood executives, tucked inside an animal themed issue of the Hollywood reporter. Thing is, the animal story that was going to be on the cover ended up getting bumped for a story about Hitler (well, he was an animal lover). According to The New York Times, many of the execs mistook it for a nutrition bar made for humans. None of these people would go on record.
To me, this story is not shocking because it involves dog food in the mouths of the Hollywood elite. Rather, I marvel, yet again, at how people see some kind of grand divide between food that is meant for dogs and food that is meant for humans. The now-widespread idea that pets should eat food made especially for them has only been around for a little more than a century. Before that, they ate what we ate. Dog digestive systems are not so different from ours. They evolved to be able to eat our food. Dumpster divers and scavengers, they usually ate it after we did. But the divide was more one of time than of content.
Of course the problem, and the irony, is that now a lot of higher end dog foods are a lot better than the shit we feed ourselves.
Here are the ingredients in the DogsBar: Organic brown rice syrup, oats, blackstrap molasses, organic crisp brown rice, organic flax seeds, organic peanut butter, sunflower seed kernels, organic potato flakes, organic sunflower oil, and dried blueberries.
Sounds pretty decent, right?
Indeed, they are largely the same as the ingredients in a human-marketed Blueberry Crisp Clif Bar: Organic brown rice syrup, soy rice crisps, organic roasted soybeans, organic roasted soybeans, organic soy flour, organic rolled oats, organic toasted oats, organic almonds, organic milled flaxseed, organic oat bran and blueberries.
But that’s just the first part of the Clif Bar. There are also, like, a dozen other things in it, including several kinds of sweeteners and an ingredient called “CliffPro,” which is not something that I believe grows on a tree. The Clif Bar also has more than a couple soy-based ingredients, and I believe the jury is still out on whether or not we should be eating soy, or even growing it.
So, based just on the ingredients, I think I’d rather eat the dog food. As Marion Nestle notes in her excellent book Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, many of the ingredients were likely sourced from the same far off places (in the 2007 pet food recalls, massive quantities of baby food and pet formula were both found to be contaminated with deadly ingredient melamine).
They didn’t send me one for free. But, curious what it would be like to be a Hollywood executive, I headed to Petco this morning and got one for breakfast. Blueberry flavor. I also got a Clif Bar.
My dog, Amos, salivated at my feet at 71 Irving’s outdoor cafe as I unwrapped the Clif Bar, above right, and the Dogsbar.
We tasted them together. The Dogsbar tasted like the handful of nut/seed/granola-y/healthy whatever bars I’ve had in my life. It tasted like it was good for me. In fact, it reminded me very much like the gluten-free pumpkin/granola/oat bar that I get at 71 when I’m punishing myself for eating croissants two days in a row, which costs the same ($3.95) as the Dogsbar ($3.99).
The Clif Bar was sweeter, chewier, and decent tasting. But it didn’t feel like it was a lot healthier than a croissant.
Amos, on the other hand, enjoyed both bars.
The other dogs sitting outside, Sammie and Bijou, wouldn’t touch either one.