Monday, December 15, 2008

October 25, 2008 "Complications of the Simple Life"


I've decided to start cooking for my dogs. This was not a major, life-altering decision. However, in my efforts, such as this one, to save the world by living more sustainably, locally, organically and simply, I often end up in a morass of alternatives, possibilities, unintended consequences, and their attendant feelings of dread and apprehension.


O.k., I told myself, cooking for the dogs is a good thing to do, and not a big deal. It is good because everybody, except for dog-food manufacturers and some conservative veterinarians, agrees that home-cooked food is better for dogs than even the best industrially produced food. It is good because the kibble I presently feed my dogs (it has the word “gold” in the name, and the price of gold on the label) costs more, pound per pound, than what my husband and I eat for dinner most nights. It is good because I can buy the meat and rice at the nearby grocery store—the veggies and eggs will come from our garden and chickens—thus avoiding a 25-minute trip to the pet store to purchase the gold food, which will save time and help to avert global warming.


And it's really not a big deal. I can buy the meat and rice in large quantities. And cooking for dogs is a snap (I've done it before): you just brown the meat in a big pot, bung in the rice and enough water to cook it. Then you add the roughly chopped veggies and anything else, like eggs, sardines, or powdered milk, that you feel inspired to include. When the rice is done you stir the whole mess, ladle it into containers that will hold a day's ration, and freeze.


On the other hand, I may be fooling myself. I'm going to be cooking for two German Shepherds, who together total roughly 180 lbs of dog. In the store, I'll have to hunt around for the cheapest source of protein available—ground beef, cottage cheese, canned fish or whatever. I'll be lucky if I can fit a single week's worth of dog dinners in my huge stock pot. And not only will I have to find a way to store these huge amounts of food in our freezer but, even more difficult, I'll have to remember every day to take out the next day's ration so it has a chance to defrost...and with our house temperature presently hovering around 60F, defrosting takes a while. In the face of all this, measuring out a couple of cups of kibble and pouring them into a dish seems like the soul of simplicity.


Nor is cooking dog food at home free of ethical complications. Since there is no way I can afford to feed my dogs locally-grown, grass-fed beef, I will end up buying meat transported from God-knows-where (thus canceling out my gas savings), from animals fed ecologically harmful grain diets and confined in feedlots and slaughtered in ways that...but I won't go there. The cottage cheese won't be organic either, again because of cost, so I'll be supporting industrial dairy farms where cows are pushed to the limits of their productivity and are spent and slaughtered by age four, and where week-old male calves are shipped off to...I won't go there either. As for the fish, with every canned sardine they swallow my dogs will be participating in the rapid depletion of the oceans.


Now can you see what I mean by dread and apprehension?


But I'm still going to do it, because: 1. it's good for the dogs; 2. they LOVE home-cooked food; and 3. I love it when somebody loves my cooking.

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