Animal stories are so much fun to read and some of the very best are found in a paperback called "Herd on the Street," a collection of animal stories published in "The Wall Street Journal" and edited by Ken Wells. Here are two of my favorites.Here in the United States, farmers complain about government regulations, but I don't think any of ours can top the ones mandated by the state of North Rhineland-Westphalian in Germany. To regain the public's confidence in pork, state officials instituted a set of rules which included better hygiene and testing procedures as well as declaring that every one of the six million pigs in the state had to have one square meter of stall space, a straw or rubber mat for napping, and chew toys and balls.
However, the real problem is what the German farmers call the "cuddle rule" that says every farmer or farm employee must spend 20 seconds looking at each pig each day and prove it with paperwork. A farmer cannot get a license to expand without complying with this new rule. A farmer with 1500 pigs would need about 8 hours or a full-time employee to satisfy the law. Some farmers are concerned that this rule will put them out of business since the cost is nearly as much as their current profits.
The North Rhineland-Westphalian agricultural ministry officials say that these mandates and nationwide pig-rearing laws are necessary to make sure both animals and consumers are protected.
Next, there really is a "cattery" located outside Seattle, Washington, run by the Carnation Co. for the purpose of testing cat food. About 500 lucky cats taste-test 250,000 cans of moist cat food and 70,000 pounds of dry food every year. Carnation started this facility in 1953 with 44 cats. Today most of the resident felines are descendants of the original group.
The head of this research facility explains that the nutritional requirements for cats are fairly well-known. The problem is the finicky feline appetite and "food fatigue." This explains why pet food companies make so many flavors and textures of cat food. Every month 200 or 250 computerized tests are done mostly on food acceptance. Measured portions of cat food are weighed and fed to the cats who all have a computer number. Then the cats eat and the bowls are weighed again. The tests are on new products but also include foods that may have been on the market for years.
The cat palate is so sensitive that it can detect even tiny changes in the food. Carnation uses taste testing to make sure that its popular brands continue to be true to the original recipe. The cats are often used if a recipe has to be changed when a supplier can no longer provide an ingredient. Then the cats help make multi-million dollar business decisions. The new batch of food is shipped to the cattery, fed overnight and the results sent to headquarters the next day. Sometimes factory production is held up until the cat testing data is analyzed. The cats also test rival cat food, fed in the same bowls as the Carnation food.
Most of these cats are plain tabby cats. The company learned many years ago that fancy cats eat the same as common cats. All the cats have names, are groomed and weighed weekly, and watched over by a full time veterinarian. I'm wondering if they need any replacements since I have a few cats. Oh wait, that wouldn't work, my cats eat anything and everything!
Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township. She writes for the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.