With an appeal to the simplistic, Barbara Laino says, “We know processed foods are wrong for us. It has to be wrong for them. If you can feed yourself healthily and your children, then you can feed your pets healthily, too. It really isn’t that hard.”
Laino is talking about the standard recipe she uses to feed her Alaskan malamute, another dog and three cats in her house for around 10 days: grind 40 pounds of pasture-raised chicken necks with another 20 pounds of chicken giblets. To this, she adds five pounds of carrots, a whole cabbage and several other fruits, all from the organic fields of Midsummer Farm, Ms. Laino’s farm in Warwick, N.Y. Finally, she blends the mix with herbs and supplements.
She tells the New York Times in a piece of pet food porn that she wants for her pets what she wants for herself: a healthy diet of unprocessed organic foods. And now she teaches others.
Cesar Millan, host of the television show “The Dog Whisperer,” says, “The dog has always been a mirror of the human style of life. Organic has become a new fashion, a new style of living.”
Cesar got the lifestyle bit right, because that is all it is; as for microbiological safety, the cross-contamination risks alone in the food prep sound daunting.
Nancy K. Cook, the vice president at the Pet Food Institute, a trade association for commercial pet food makers, cautions pet owners that it is hard to create a balanced diet at home, since dogs and cats have specific nutritional requirements.
Joseph J. Wakshlag, a clinical nutritionist at the Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University, said that if pets are not fed the correct balance of proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins, they can experience several health disorders, including anemia, broken bones and loss of teeth from lack of calcium.
Korinn Saker, a clinical nutritionist at the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University, who treats animals at the school’s teaching hospital, said she was not against people cooking for their pets, but that if it was not done correctly, the consequences could be harmful.
She has seen several dogs with adverse effects from unbalanced homemade pet food diets, including a German shepherd puppy “who was walking on its elbows because it had no strength in its bones,” she said. The dog, it turned out, was not getting enough calcium.
Dr. Saker, asked to analyze the recipe from Ms. Laino’s workshop, found that it was lacking in a number of nutrients recommended by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.
Ms. Laino said she rejects the standards recommended by the feed association, and suggested that her recipe might be richer in certain nutrients because the ingredients are organic.
Hucksterism is alive and well for Barbara Laino and the N.Y. Times.