Pet Food

‘Green’ humane, healthful pet food revolution | Columns

DEAR READERS: Our collective sequestering during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought most of us closer to our animal companions, and has us preparing our own meals rather than eating out. Such self-sufficiency can lead us to consider just what we are eating and feeding to our families, including our pets. Questions we should all ask about our food include: What is its quality and nutritional value? What is its environmental impact/carbon footprint? What is its impact on biodiversity, or loss of wildlife and habitat? How much suffering was inflicted on sentient creatures being raised for consumption or caught in nets, in traps and on hooks?

It is ironic that while we are destroying the insect kingdom with our insecticides and herbicides, we are also beginning to utilize bugs to feed us and our pets. Most notable are the nutritious fats and proteins from the grubs of the black soldier fly, now allowed in Europe as a food-enhancing nutritional supplement. These grubs recycle food waste into a nutritious byproduct: a classic illustration of nature’s waste-free “circular economy.” And the process results in virtually zero net emissions, compared to farmed animals raised to produce similar fats and proteins.

As for emissions of carbon dioxide — the main climate-changing greenhouse gas —- there is yet another irony. Food-grade CO2 is now in short supply in Europe because rising electricity and fossil fuel costs have crippled the ammonia fertilizer industry. That industry was able to market CO2, a byproduct of ammonia manufacturing, to the food industry to increase the shelf life of meats and other products.

The good news for companion animals is that several pet food companies are now looking at this bigger picture and are seeking and including eco-friendly and humanely produced ingredients. Of note is the Wisdom line of dog foods from Dr. Bob Goldstein’s Earth Animal brand. This is a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, meat-based diet using sustainably sourced raw ingredients and humanely-raised proteins. The company is also developing a plant-based pet food, which is currently being evaluated and tested at Oklahoma State University and is scheduled to be available for purchase in 2022.

Biotechnology applied to cell culture, like that which led to the world’s first large-scale facility for producing cultivated meat in Emeryville, California, is the wave of the future — one where the human diet, and what we feed our animal companions, will be more humane and sustainable. Raising ever-fewer animals for human consumption, with their byproducts going into pet foods, would be good for the planet.

To find more companies that are pledging to use human-grade, quality ingredients in their cat and dog foods, I urge readers to visit Along with this helpful information, pet food safety advocate Susan Thixton has also posted an analysis of the past 10 years’ worth of pet food recalls. Some key findings: Kibble was the No. 1 type of pet food recalled. Pathogenic bacteria was the top cause of recalls, followed by pentobarbital, aflatoxin and excess or deficient vitamins/minerals. All should read this report (

DEAR DR. FOX: After not having a dog for 20 years, I have recently become open to having one again. In doing some research, I came upon what I initially thought was an aberration that some quack was trying to sell, but it seems to have taken hold among some breeders. It’s called “biosensor” or “early neurological stimulation,” and promises a “super dog” resistant to disease and stress, and with a stronger heart and immune system. Good grief, it appears you could end up with dogs that can tap dance and play the piano at the same time!

So I’m wondering what your opinion of this is. The expert in question is Dr. Carmen Battaglia, and he calls it “early neurological stimulation.” He appears to sell this information through paid seminars to breeders, who are perhaps hoping for a quick fix. He’s evidently a judge for the AKC. By the way, his doctorate is in prison science and sociology of some kind — not veterinary medicine. — N.S., Houston

DEAR N.H.: There are many charlatans, plagiarists and pretenders proclaiming the ownership of whatever they may be promoting, often purely for profit and personal aggrandizement. The term “biosensor,” in this case, is similar to a term from an earlier chapter in my career.

My book “Understanding Your Dog,” first published in 1972 when I was a professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis (and also a veterinarian), provides the steps I developed to produce more resilient puppies through various early-in-life handling procedures. This original research, done by me, was part of my Ph.D. dissertation, which was eventually published by the University of Chicago Press as “Integrative Development of Brain and Behavior in the Dog.”

The U.S. Army, under my consultancy, adopted these so-called “super dog” procedures in their “Biosensor” Vietnam war dog program. For more details, check the synopsis on my website:

Send all mail to [email protected] or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at