Your pâté may be dog food

Pax Arcana

alpoMy ability to appreciate fine foods is legendary. In fact, the burgeoning field of forensic gastronomics was invented in order to study how I am able to use my palate to discern whether the nutmeg in this custard was harvested in Penang or Indonesia.

As such, I would have been worthless to economists John Bohannon, Robin Goldstein and Alexis Herschkowitsch, who recently published a study (quoted on Freakonomics) in which study participants were unable to distinguish pâté from dog food:

To prevent bias, Newman’s Own dog food was prepared with a food processor to have the texture and appearance of a liver mousse. 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% of subjects ranked the dog food as the worst of the five samples in terms of taste (Newell and MacFarlane multiple comparison, P<0.05), subjects were not better than random at correctly identifying the dog food.

The economists say the study was intended to reveal truths about how humans consider what is fit for human consumption and what isn’t. After all, they point out that lobster was once considered fit only for slaves and animals and is now considered a delicacy. While study subjects disliked the taste of the dog food, they were not able to distinguish it from food acceptable for human consumption.

All I know is if I found out that three economists had tricked me into eating dog food, they’d have a taste test of their own — a double-blind sampling of knuckle sandwiches. By which I mean pig knuckle on pumpernickel with Berliner mustard.

Recession Relief for Pâté Lovers [Freakonomics]


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