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Pâté a la Pooch

This pâté was made just for people. (Stewart Young for Fig restaurant, Charleston)

How good is your palate, and how willing would you be to put it to this kind of test? A recent (PDF download alert) report from the Association of Wine Economists investigates whether people can tell the difference between pâté and dog food blended to have a mousse-like texture.

In a double-blind test, subjects were presented with five unlabeled blended meat products, one of which was the prepared dog food. After ranking the samples on the basis of taste, subjects were challenged to identify which of the five was dog food. Although 72 percent of the subjects ranked the dog food as the worst-tasting of the five samples, most subjects did not correctly identify the creamy concoction as dog food.

Just why the association decided to take on this topic is not clear. But the report got my attention because the group does some interesting research (more PDF files): How wine price affects taste, for example, and a model for determining the carbon footprint of different wines.

So why couldn't tasters tell which sample was dog food? Researchers hypothesize that because subjects were assured that the experience would not be disgusting, they might have excluded the worst-tasting sample from their guesses.

The researchers conclude: "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."

Think you could tell the difference?

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  May 6, 2009; 7:35 AM ET
 | Tags: Jane Black, research  
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For folks to actually identify the sample as dog food, wouldn't they have needed to have tried dog food in their lives before? Methinks it's a good thing they were unable to say it was specifically dog food, and that they correctly pointed out that it was the worst of all samples.

Posted by: karenina3 | May 6, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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