What My Puppy Taught Me About Being an Omnivore

Omnivore eating a poppy photo

Image: Christine Lepisto

The natural instincts driving puppies can barely be hemmed by us humans, even if we think we know better. Take eating, for example. Puppies chew on everything. A hierarchy evolves: things that are fun to rip and tear but must be shimmied off the tongue when the fun ends; specks that can be hunted off the floor or out of the fields, chewed and swallowed without a thought to potential gastrointestinal distress; and the dog kibbles.

Navigating a confusing multiplicity of food choices confronts every person who is sensitive to the impacts of diet on our health and on our planet. But somehow, making these choices for a puppy puts things in a new perspective. Picking a puppy food presented the first challenge. It all started at the pet store. Some weeks before our date to pick the puppy up, we started research for the Big Choice: the best puppy food to grow a strapping, strong dog. Our friend, who owns the local pet store, pointed out an option new to the market since we last needed puppy food. It's regional, he emphasized, as we stood before the Orijens display.

"Regional?," I thought. Regional if you are in Canada...but this is Italy. Suspicions of greenwashing suffused my subsequent research. But the company behind Orijens reflects the values I embrace in my human diet. They apply the term "biologically appropriate" to a food which is protein-dense, and largely free of the carbohydrate-rich grains that constitute the bulk of most dog foods. I like the idea that no chicken or turkey suffers from industrial farming methods just so I can indulge the ultimate luxury of feeding a domesticated wolf. That my dog is eating fresh ingredients, never frozen much less treated with chemicals before being incorporated into shelf-stable dried kibbles.

The ingredient list reads as I imagine my pantry labels would, if I was that organized. Rationalizing that regional ingredients still have some value even for our dog food choice in Italy -- due to the reduced transportation footprint of the heavy, wet ingredients -- we acquired a bag of Orijens to give the puppy a good start.

The second challenge arises as the puppy arrives at the farm, with a serious case of KADD (kibble attention deficit disorder). We quickly figured out distraction number one: his own image starting back at him from the bottom of his stainless steel dog dish. Switching to a clay dish ended his cavorting about the kibbles -- but left him completely unengaged, satisfied to ignore the bowl of food in favor of his preferred diet: bugs.

Yes, bugs. Our tiny, rubber-boned, fuzz-wrapped predator prefers bugs. And so it comes full circle. As we search for the solutions to our food future, maybe the revolution could start with dogs. Sure, "made with fresh and regional crane fly larvae and red-legged grasshopper" may not have the same ad appeal, but isn't service to the spin machine what got us into this food kerfuffle in the first place? And how much of a stretch is it from "yum, caviar and crab" (fish eggs and ocean insects?) to a properly marketed, trend-driven tendency (trendency?) to hanker for a ten-lined june beetle?

More on Insects as Food:
Is Eating Insects the Answer to Reducing our Food Footprint?
5 Reasons to Learn About Eating Insects with GirlMeetsBug
Bugs are Back on the Menu
More on Pet Food Choice:
Survey: what do you feed your dog
How to Go Green: Pets
Pet FoodForum
More on Food and Industrial Farming:
Vegetarian's Rebuttal to 'The Carnivore's Dilemma
Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma
Omnivore's Delusion and the Joy of Industrial Agriculture

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