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Food for Man and Beast

By Stett Holbrook

AS FOOD EDITOR at the Metro, I get lots of food and drink in the mail from companies looking for publicity. Most of the stuff is not worth writing about: a new line of strawberry juice, sugary cappuccino mixtures, candy bars and passion fruit-flavored rum. In general, I don't review new products, so I pass the schwag around the newsroom. Reporters will eat almost anything and are usually happy to help dispose of the goods, especially news editor DEAN HINTON. Sometimes though, I get something interesting and I turn to my fellow journalists to help me evaluate it. But when I got a shipment of SPOT'S STEW, "human grade" dog food made by HALO'S PURELY FOR PETS, I knew I'd have trouble getting even newshound Dean to sample the stuff.

Instead, I turned to my two in-house experts: DJANGO and RUBY. Django and Ruby are Australian cattle dogs. Remember MEL GIBSON's dog in MAD MAX or the rustlers' dog in BABE? That's a cattle dog, a breed crossed with wild dingoes and three other dog breeds in the 1800s to create a cattle-driving machine.

Django is a 7-year-old male of discriminating tastes. Sometimes he needs a sprinkle of chicken stock or drizzle of olive oil on his food to entice him to eat dinner. He could lose a few pounds, too. Ruby is a wiry, 10-year-old bitch and believe me, she lives up to that title. But it's not her fault. She's a rescue dog and was abused by a mean old rancher who apparently beat her for not herding cattle like she was bred to do. After the rancher abandoned her, she spent time in and out of the pound bouncing around from owner to owner before we adopted her. She hates other dogs and is very wary of strangers. As a result of her time in doggie jail, she eats anything in sight, forever fearing where her next meal is coming from. She'd lap up cat vomit with the same exuberance as raw filet mignon.

But cat vomit might be better than some of the stuff that passes for dog food. According to Halo, which also makes food for cats and birds, a lot of lesser quality dog food on the market is made from roadkill. That's right. Meat rendering plants purchase and process roadkill, ground-up diseased animal parts and other nasty stuff that are then made into pet foods and labeled "byproducts." What's worse, some pet food manufacturers use the remains of animal carcasses euthanized at humane shelters, including their pet tags and collars, says Halo.

Halo, by contrast, makes pet food from high quality ingredients without byproducts, artificial preservative or colors, or added salt or sugar. Spot's Stew is made with chicken, squash, carrots, celery, pasta, green beans and other ingredients that make it look like, well, stew. It's made with USDA-approved ingredients and is human grade, meaning dog and master can eat out of the same can. But I don't recommend that.

How does Spot's Stew taste? Like chicken stew that could use a big jolt of salt. But as far as dog food goes, it's not bad. Ruby inhaled her bowl of Spot's Stew like it was oxygen and she was dying of suffocation. Picky Django devoured his with the same gusto, though Ruby finished first. Ol' Dean doesn't know what he's missing.

Check out halopets.com for more information.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the June 8-14, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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