Written by: Victoria Broehm | October 30, 2023
My husband and I enjoy watching “Saturday Night Live,” and often, when we can watch it live on Saturday nights, we’re still chuckling about the jokes on Sunday mornings during church (oops!). When I saw that a newfound favorite comedian of mine, Nate Bargatze, and musical guest Foo Fighters, yet another favorite, were headlining Oct. 28, I had to tune in. Just minutes before the show ended, SNL aired a spoof about eating dog food, which moved me to belly laughs.
You can watch the full 2-minute skit here, but the gist boils down to a couple of the SNL writers taking up eating “dawg food” as a new “meal service thing.”
“Yeah man, for them dawgs who don’t want to cook, grab your bowl, pour your dog food, and then BAM, you’ve got lunch!”
I thought the skit was hilarious because we all can agree that dog food is meant for dogs. When he chowed down on dog food with the cute dog next to him, I about tossed my cookies, which, of course, was the writers’ intent. But maybe what is more unsettling than that image is that unfortunately, this is something we encounter quite a bit in the pet food industry.
We have come across gym rats on TikTok allegedly eating dog food for its high protein content, various social media “challenges” to eat it, and sometimes, we get consumer questions about if it is safe to eat when other pantry staples may be running low (as was the case during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic).
In the skit, one of the actors asks:
“So now we can’t eat stuff just because an animal also eats it"?
YES! Our pet food members would agree that even if you put ketchup on it (as the actor does), it is not intended for people to eat.
More than 500 safe and nutritious ingredients are used in pet food, with many coming from the leftovers of human food production (e.g., bakery or brewery items or parts of the animal that humans don’t eat). While these ingredients are approved for use in certain animal species’ diets by the Food and Drug Administration or Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for use in pet diets, they are approved for that use only – for animals, not humans. To think of it another way, chocolate is a favorite staple for humans, but isn’t safe for dogs.
Dogs have unique digestive systems that can break down various ingredients, which humans cannot. They also have different nutritional needs by life stage (e.g., puppy, adult, lactating mother) and breed (e.g., small dog vs. large dog).
Oh, and that smell of dog food? Yeah – dogs love it. There are many years of science behind it, perfecting the ideal aroma and taste that will be utterly appetizing to dogs, albeit repulsive to humans.
While pet food manufacturers work overtime to ensure pet food can be safely handled in homes (e.g., reducing risks of salmonella), they encourage many best practices, often written explicitly on the package, such as encouraging pet owners to wash their hands after handling the food.
The skit showed a label that said, “It’s ok to eat,” which I also had to laugh at, given our industry, AAFCO and others have been working for many years to update product labels, and I know for certain AAFCO has a warning that a product formulated for a pet is unlikely to be nutritionally adequate for a human and vice versa. There are even special requirements to assure “human grade” pet food doesn’t show up on the family dinner table.
All in all, I think this segment was a great opportunity to explain, once again, that pet food is meant for pets, not humans. Now, if SNL would have combined its skit on weights and measures with this one, I may have laughed more, given how much the industry has worked in recent years to improve transparency around what measurements should be listed on pet food labels to ensure consumers understand and can feed their pets appropriately.