Question of the Day: Are We Overlooking a Meat Source?
From the inbox:
I am a big fan — one who especially appreciates your willingness to (perhaps enjoyment in?) exploring solutions that many would consider repugnant. In that spirit, I would love to get your thoughts on a seemingly unconscionable idea that I recently became aware of.
Every year the U.S. euthanizes approximately 3 to 4 million companion animals (mostly dogs and cats). To put it bluntly, what do you think about using these carcasses as a meat source? We expend enormous resources — land, money, and energy — in producing animal feed and ultimately meat. Given this expense, as well as the world’s need for protein sources, I’d love for you to weigh in on this rather repugnant idea.
p.s.: Please do not use my name if you are to publish this in any way.
Your thoughts? Here are mine:
1. Yes, repugnance is an issue, from both the demand and supply sides — i.e., I can’t imagine a lot of pet owners would like their departed pets to be turned into human food, nor do I think a lot of Americans are clamoring for dog or cat meat. FWIW, I would include myself in both categories.
2. If we pretend that No. 1 isn’t an issue, are there enough dogs and cats to make a real difference? The Humane Society estimates that 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized by shelters each year (I assume that’s where XXX got his number). For the sake of argument, let’s now make a few assumptions. Let’s assume that this Humane Society estimate is somewhere close to reality, and let’s assume the same number of pets are privately euthanized. So we’ll call it 7 million dogs and cats total, with 3.5 million of each.
Let’s say the average dog weighs 30 pounds and the average cat weighs 10 pounds. So that’s 3.5 million (dogs) x 30 lbs. (105 million pounds) + 3.5 million (cats) x 10 pounds (35 million pounds) for a total of 140 million pounds of dog + cat carcass per year.
Meanwhile, here’s how much “standard” meat American companies produce in a year: 37.2 billion pounds of chicken; 26.4 billion pounds of beef; 22.5 billion pounds of pork, 5.8 billion pounds of turkey (yes, most of it the product of artificial insemination); and 313 million pounds of veal, lamb and mutton.
So, even without the repugnance issue, 140 million pounds of dog and cat meat doesn’t look like a very significant meat source, at least for American consumers. On the other hand, U.S. chicken companies make good money selling chicken feet to foreign consumers, mostly in China and Hong Kong.
So maybe XXX’s idea has some value for export companies, as long as they’re willing to start a movement to collect and process every deceased pet in America?
3. All that said, and acknowledging that I probably wouldn’t (knowingly) eat cat or dog if only because I’ve been raised to love them as pets, I see XXX’s point: as a society, we are becoming increasingly aware of how resource-intensive it is to raise meat for consumption but we also spend a lot of resources raising other animals just as pets. Does anyone have a problem with that?