Making Better Dog Food In China

How many times have we settled into a comfortable chair at a restaurant, scanned the menu, and debated between the sirloin or the salmon?

Of course, in different countries there are different choices. As CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen discovered in China, the menu might include turtle, snake or

Eating dog in China is a 2000-year-old tradition. But now, in an unusual case of East meets West, with a pinch of capitalism thrown in, China is borrowing from the West to enhance it’s dog market. Not by turning to new technology, but rather with the dogs themselves, St. Bernards.

The idea is simple. A bigger dog makes bigger offspring and therefore more meat, which makes more profit for dog breeders.

It started five years ago when a prestigious university in northern China opened the Shenyang New Century Animal Husbandry Applied Research Institute. They imported their first St. Bernards from Switzerland, and an old culinary tradition got a new face.

"This giant animal is famous in the world for its size and also for it’s gentle disposition," says Institute director Dong Li. "Compared with pork, beef and mutton, dog meat is more nutritious."

But make no mistake. No one is eating these St. Bernards. They’re too valuable; the best of the litter sometimes selling for upwards of $3,000 a dog. Their value is in breeding with local dogs.

The offspring of a St. Bernard bred with a local dog can be as much as 35 to 50 percent bigger. That’s 50 percent more dog meat available.

And at local markets, dog meat sometimes sells at twice the price of other meats. In the changing China, where profit is paramount, the dogs are a big hit.

In fact, there are now almost 50 similar St. Bernard breeding institutes scattered across China, and an estimated 10,000 St. Bernards now actively used for breeding.

On a blazing hot morning, the institute’s vet, Ming Tian Zuo, in a sparkling-clean cage with some of his puppies, explains the wisdom of the breeding program.

"St. Bernards’ meat is not tasty because it is fatty," he said. "But the meat from the offspring mating with a local mongrel dog is tasty and nutritious. And eating dog helps people build up the ability to cope with cold."

These St. Bernards are seriously pampered pooches. The puppies have their own university-trained chef, who mixes corn meal, chicken, fish and eggs. But not the whole egg. Lu Qi carefully peels the boiled eggs, giving the puppies only the yolk. The egg white, he explains, is hard for them to digest.

And for pregnant moms, he adds a pinch of salt to their food.

At lunch, we were guests of the institute at a nearby restaurant. The menu was typical. It listed pig intestines, noodles made from beans ground into powder and made into a pasta, and fresh fish (it was swimming five minutes ago) served whole — head to tail, eyes and all.

But no dog. No way.

"No one at our institute eats dog," explaine director Dong Li. "We all like dogs too much."

I’m with Dong Li on that one. Make mine salmon.

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