Home
Eva Saks

Leslie Crane Rugg and Eva Saks are currently writing The Dog Ate My Cookbook!, a cookbook of tasty meals that dogs and kids can share. Prior credits include AKC Gazette and Dog & Kennel (Rugg); Sesame Street and Playhouse Disney (Saks).

Culture: Reviews
Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat
Free Press; $16.99

Feed Your Pet Right is an invaluable overview of the invention, production, distribution, marketing and regulation of pet food. This handy paperback covers everything from the “big picture” (nutritional standards, labeling lingo and industry structure) to consumer tips (for example, on the label, every ingredient listed after salt is negligible in amount). Food, supplements, treats, chews and snacks are all addressed.

At a time when the debate over canine diets — raw, grain-free, home-cooked, vegetarian, organic — has reached a frenzy, Nestle and Nesheim bring a calming tone to the subject. Leaving ideology behind, they clear a path through the jungle of dog food choices. Nestle, an NYU professor of nutrition, food studies and public health, and Nesheim, a Cornell professor emeritus of nutritional sciences, are academics active in food politics. At its best, their book is groundbreaking, as in the chapter on conflicts of interest in the cozy and unquestioned relationship between pet food manufacturers and veterinary schools/veterinarians. Veterinary school curricula generally do not cover nutrition. Pet food companies happily fill this gap by providing free courses, textbooks, lab equipment and industry internships. Small wonder that many veterinarians sell food made by the very companies that taught them pet nutrition.

Also noteworthy is the chapter examining the ethics of pet food research. According to the authors, impartial scientists do not conduct such research; it is done exclusively by pet food companies and carefully designed to prove that their products are beneficial. Industry studies analyzed by the authors were further weakened by specific protocol failures, including inadequate subject pools and sloppy control groups. Moreover, industry research is characterized by secrecy. Contrary to good science, these studies cannot be reproduced by an independent third party.

Certain “Conclusions” by the authors are provocative, particularly that “Commercial Pet Foods Are Pretty Much Alike, Nutritionally Speaking” and “By-Products Are By-Products, and Not Necessarily Bad.” Can a kibble made with agricultural-grade grain and unspecified animal by-products really be as nutritious as one containing a named organic protein and vegetables? And why does the book give such short shrift to both the benefits and drawbacks of raw feeding?

In addition, their analysis of homecooked and raw diets underrates the benefits of whole foods for dogs and of controlling the contents of your pet’s food. This is particularly surprising given Nestle’s emphasis on whole foods for people in What to Eat and her alarm over the lack of quality control in the pet food industry in Pet Food Politics. In Feed Your Pet Right, most kibbles are deemed equivalent and as good as homemade food. But how can extruded, rendered, non-humangrade sources provide the same quality as whole, fresh foods meeting USDA “people food” — or, even better, organic — standards?

Notwithstanding these concerns, the authors’ assertion that “balance, variety and moderation work for pet food as well as for human food” is a welcome and commonsensical conclusion. The underlying message is a Canine Golden Rule: do for your dog as you would do for yourself. Every dog person will learn something from this must-read book.

Culture: Reviews
Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat
Free Press; $16.99

Feed Your Pet Right is an invaluable overview of the invention, production, distribution, marketing and regulation of pet food. This handy paperback covers everything from the “big picture” (nutritional standards, labeling lingo and industry structure) to consumer tips (for example, on the label, every ingredient listed after salt is negligible in amount). Food, supplements, treats, chews and snacks are all addressed.

At a time when the debate over canine diets — raw, grain-free, home-cooked, vegetarian, organic — has reached a frenzy, Nestle and Nesheim bring a calming tone to the subject. Leaving ideology behind, they clear a path through the jungle of dog food choices. Nestle, an NYU professor of nutrition, food studies and public health, and Nesheim, a Cornell professor emeritus of nutritional sciences, are academics active in food politics. At its best, their book is groundbreaking, as in the chapter on conflicts of interest in the cozy and unquestioned relationship between pet food manufacturers and veterinary schools/veterinarians. Veterinary school curricula generally do not cover nutrition. Pet food companies happily fill this gap by providing free courses, textbooks, lab equipment and industry internships. Small wonder that many veterinarians sell food made by the very companies that taught them pet nutrition.

Also noteworthy is the chapter examining the ethics of pet food research. According to the authors, impartial scientists do not conduct such research; it is done exclusively by pet food companies and carefully designed to prove that their products are beneficial. Industry studies analyzed by the authors were further weakened by specific protocol failures, including inadequate subject pools and sloppy control groups. Moreover, industry research is characterized by secrecy. Contrary to good science, these studies cannot be reproduced by an independent third party.

Certain “Conclusions” by the authors are provocative, particularly that “Commercial Pet Foods Are Pretty Much Alike, Nutritionally Speaking” and “By-Products Are By-Products, and Not Necessarily Bad.” Can a kibble made with agricultural-grade grain and unspecified animal by-products really be as nutritious as one containing a named organic protein and vegetables? And why does the book give such short shrift to both the benefits and drawbacks of raw feeding?

In addition, their analysis of homecooked and raw diets underrates the benefits of whole foods for dogs and of controlling the contents of your pet’s food. This is particularly surprising given Nestle’s emphasis on whole foods for people in What to Eat and her alarm over the lack of quality control in the pet food industry in Pet Food Politics. In Feed Your Pet Right, most kibbles are deemed equivalent and as good as homemade food. But how can extruded, rendered, non-humangrade sources provide the same quality as whole, fresh foods meeting USDA “people food” — or, even better, organic — standards?

Notwithstanding these concerns, the authors’ assertion that “balance, variety and moderation work for pet food as well as for human food” is a welcome and commonsensical conclusion. The underlying message is a Canine Golden Rule: do for your dog as you would do for yourself. Every dog person will learn something from this must-read book.

Wellness: Healthy Living
Healthy Food Dogs and Kids Can Share
TREAT them both right

You want to give your dog the best. You want to give your child the best, too. No one advocates feeding your child dog food. But how about giving both of them … salmon steak?

 

Sharing food with your dog seems radical, but it’s merely a return to the way dogs were fed for millennia. The human-animal bond developed partly because dogs and humans could eat the same foods, and the act of sharing reinforced this intimate connection.

Shared food isn’t novel compared with “dog food,” which was invented only 150 years ago when Spratt’s Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cake hit the market. With this biscuit, dog food distinct from human food was created. After World War I, canned horsemeat joined biscuits as dog food, and after World War II, better living through chemistry brought on the golden age of processing: kibble for dogs, TV dinners and Tang for kids.

 

Nowadays, few of us would feed our kids a 1950s classic like baked ham slice slathered in mustard and garnished with maraschino cherries, a triumph of color over taste. Nor would we feed our dogs a mid-century meal of Gaines-Burgers, a triumph of marketing over nutrition. Instead, we are rediscovering the benefits of unprocessed, home-prepped, whole foods for our kids and dogs.

 

Michael Pollan’s best-selling In Defense of Food warns us not to eat anything our great-grandmothers wouldn’t recognize as food. A complementary principle applies: Don’t feed your dog anything your great-grandmother’s dog wouldn’t recognize as food. What they would both recognize is the same: simply food, not a “Food, Inc.” assemblage of processed factory ingredients.

 

The best food for dogs and kids is organic, whether meat, produce or whole grains. Too expensive? You can still prepare healthy, sharable meals. Look for sales in your market’s meat section. Chicken and beef can be cheaper per pound than kibble, canned food or packaged treats, and their nutritional value far exceeds that of dog food, whose first ingredients often include by-products and nutrient-poor, agricultural-grade grains. Dog food gives you less for more; shared food gives you more for less. Read unit prices!

 

Shared food is as fast as “fast food,” as convenient as “convenience food.” Give your kid and your dog carrots instead of potato chips and dog biscuits. Think freshness and simplicity, not complexity and trendiness. A dietary dividend: Kids are more likely to try new foods if the dog’s enjoying them.

 

Enrich your perspective on shared food with the TREATS system. Named for what dogs and kids both enjoy, TREATS stands for:

 

Taste over Image

Read Labels

Eat Local, Fresh, Organic

Always Flavor It Yourself

Tooth or Dare

Sporting Life

 

Taste over Image: Don’t buy the succulent-looking chicken plumped with saltwater, pumped with antibiotics and fed pesticide-laced corn. Buy organic or at least “natural” chicken. It tastes better and needs no artificial enhancement.

 

Read Labels: The packaging depicts a cornucopia of ripe fruits and vegetables, but what’s really inside? Only the manufacturer knows for sure, but you can learn a lot by reading labels. Note the number and incomprehensibility of ingredients in processed food. A whole food has one ingredient: a banana contains banana.

 

Eat Organic, Seasonal, Local: Patronize a farmers’ market or farm stand. Be brave—if the First Lady can commandeer a plot of White House lawn, you can grow a victory garden. At least set up a window box and grow herbs to …

 

Always Flavor It Yourself: Don’t buy foods with salt or sugar added. Let your child and dog discover the real taste of food. Experiment with spices like cinnamon, ginger and anise.

 

Tooth or Dare: Fight dental decay and gum disease; don’t buy kid- and dog-targeted commercial foods. Children’s cereals “might as well be cookies,” says Marion Nestle in What to Eat. Give your kid and dog an apple to share. Dog food doesn’t promote dental health, and it often contains sugar (as does canine toothpaste!). In the wild, canids’ teeth stay clean through a diet consisting primarily of meat and bones. (With their wolf-like dentition, dogs are classified taxonomically as carnivores, which does not preclude opportunistically eating vegetation, including digestible vegetables.)

 

Sporting Life: Encourage your kid and dog to play together. Childhood and canine obesity are major health problems. An active lifestyle is as important as a healthful diet with portion control.

 

Here’s the real treat: When your kid and dog enjoy a shared meal, they’re celebrating the human-animal bond all over again. Bone appetit!

 

 

Wellness: Healthy Living
Healthy Food Dogs and Kids Can Share
TREAT them both right

You want to give your dog the best. You want to give your child the best, too. No one advocates feeding your child dog food. But how about giving both of them … salmon steak?

 

Sharing food with your dog seems radical, but it’s merely a return to the way dogs were fed for millennia. The human-animal bond developed partly because dogs and humans could eat the same foods, and the act of sharing reinforced this intimate connection.

Shared food isn’t novel compared with “dog food,” which was invented only 150 years ago when Spratt’s Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cake hit the market. With this biscuit, dog food distinct from human food was created. After World War I, canned horsemeat joined biscuits as dog food, and after World War II, better living through chemistry brought on the golden age of processing: kibble for dogs, TV dinners and Tang for kids.

 

Nowadays, few of us would feed our kids a 1950s classic like baked ham slice slathered in mustard and garnished with maraschino cherries, a triumph of color over taste. Nor would we feed our dogs a mid-century meal of Gaines-Burgers, a triumph of marketing over nutrition. Instead, we are rediscovering the benefits of unprocessed, home-prepped, whole foods for our kids and dogs.

 

Michael Pollan’s best-selling In Defense of Food warns us not to eat anything our great-grandmothers wouldn’t recognize as food. A complementary principle applies: Don’t feed your dog anything your great-grandmother’s dog wouldn’t recognize as food. What they would both recognize is the same: simply food, not a “Food, Inc.” assemblage of processed factory ingredients.

 

The best food for dogs and kids is organic, whether meat, produce or whole grains. Too expensive? You can still prepare healthy, sharable meals. Look for sales in your market’s meat section. Chicken and beef can be cheaper per pound than kibble, canned food or packaged treats, and their nutritional value far exceeds that of dog food, whose first ingredients often include by-products and nutrient-poor, agricultural-grade grains. Dog food gives you less for more; shared food gives you more for less. Read unit prices!

 

Shared food is as fast as “fast food,” as convenient as “convenience food.” Give your kid and your dog carrots instead of potato chips and dog biscuits. Think freshness and simplicity, not complexity and trendiness. A dietary dividend: Kids are more likely to try new foods if the dog’s enjoying them.

 

Enrich your perspective on shared food with the TREATS system. Named for what dogs and kids both enjoy, TREATS stands for:

 

Taste over Image

Read Labels

Eat Local, Fresh, Organic

Always Flavor It Yourself

Tooth or Dare

Sporting Life

 

Taste over Image: Don’t buy the succulent-looking chicken plumped with saltwater, pumped with antibiotics and fed pesticide-laced corn. Buy organic or at least “natural” chicken. It tastes better and needs no artificial enhancement.

 

Read Labels: The packaging depicts a cornucopia of ripe fruits and vegetables, but what’s really inside? Only the manufacturer knows for sure, but you can learn a lot by reading labels. Note the number and incomprehensibility of ingredients in processed food. A whole food has one ingredient: a banana contains banana.

 

Eat Organic, Seasonal, Local: Patronize a farmers’ market or farm stand. Be brave—if the First Lady can commandeer a plot of White House lawn, you can grow a victory garden. At least set up a window box and grow herbs to …

 

Always Flavor It Yourself: Don’t buy foods with salt or sugar added. Let your child and dog discover the real taste of food. Experiment with spices like cinnamon, ginger and anise.

 

Tooth or Dare: Fight dental decay and gum disease; don’t buy kid- and dog-targeted commercial foods. Children’s cereals “might as well be cookies,” says Marion Nestle in What to Eat. Give your kid and dog an apple to share. Dog food doesn’t promote dental health, and it often contains sugar (as does canine toothpaste!). In the wild, canids’ teeth stay clean through a diet consisting primarily of meat and bones. (With their wolf-like dentition, dogs are classified taxonomically as carnivores, which does not preclude opportunistically eating vegetation, including digestible vegetables.)

 

Sporting Life: Encourage your kid and dog to play together. Childhood and canine obesity are major health problems. An active lifestyle is as important as a healthful diet with portion control.

 

Here’s the real treat: When your kid and dog enjoy a shared meal, they’re celebrating the human-animal bond all over again. Bone appetit!