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Study: Dog Food Tastes Just Like Pâté

If the recession gets worse, we may be eating dog food for dinner.

Don't laugh. It's apparently tastier than you'd expect.

In the last few years, organic dog food made with human-grade free range meat and fresh vegetables has spiked in popularity among health-conscious shoppers. Some companies even claim, for instance, that "humans actually taste our foods, as part of our QC process!"

What's surprising is that some of the new organic dog foods taste as good as (or as bad as) similar human foods, like liverwurst and duck liver mousse, according to a working paper circulated on Friday by the American Association of Wine Economists.

The paper is titled "Can People Distinguish Pâté from Dog Food?" and it concluded that, well, they can't.

These enterprising researchers separately put organic Canned Turkey & Chicken Formula for Puppies/Active Dogs, duck liver mousse, pork liver pâté, liverwurst, and spam in a food processor. The resulting confection was ladled into five different bowls and garnished with parsley.

The volunteers in this culinary experiment didn't exactly prefer the dog food, but they couldn't identify it either. "Only 3 of 18 subjects correctly identified sample C as the dog food," the paper says.

The authors conclude that: "Although human beings do not enjoy eating dog food, they are also not able to distinguish its flavor profile from other meat-based products that are intended for human consumption."

The lesson? Presentation matters. Expectations matter. And, perhaps, that organic dog food is better than you think.

Which is why blind taste tests are so useful; Trader Joe's $2-or-$3-a-bottle Chardonnay won a blind test in California against formidable competition. Another working paper published by the wine economists' group found that, as you might expect, people give higher ratings to wine if they're told it's more expensive.

By Declan McCullagh

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