Dear Wasted Food Dude–Table Scraps

Here’s the latest installment of my food waste advice column, Dear Wasted Food Dude. It will run on BioCycle‘s website and in BioCycle Food Recycling News, their fledgling e-bulletin, but I’ll also crosspost here.

Very related: send inquiries! Please write in with any food-waste-related question/issue/conundrum. I’m not picky–the query can be big or small, true or false, named or anonymous. Send stuff to wastedfood {at} gmail or Tweet to @wastedfood.

Dear Wasted Food Dude,
I have sliced nitrate free salami in my freezer that must not have been sealed properly (even though I double bagged it). It has turned brown/gray and tastes funny. How bad would it be to feed it to my dog?
—Danielle C., Northern California

Hi Danielle,
Are you sure you didn’t doggie bag it?? Hahahahaha.

While I can’t promise that will be my last joke, I do have the sneaking suspicion that you may have already fed this brown/gray frozen meat mush to your dog and are second guessing yourself. And if that’s the case, at least you’re feeding it nitrate-free spoiled salami. You must really love that pooch!

Whether you’ve actually done the feeding or just pondered it, you’re onto something here. The EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy lists “feed animals” above anaerobic digestion and composting because it directly repurposes food’s embedded resources. But the EPA means feeding livestock—think hogs and chickens—who will then create more protein, either through their own flesh or their milk or eggs. What I’m pretty sure the EPA doesn’t have in mind is converting excess food into dog meat. While there is mutual benefit to feeding scraps to dogs, it’s more abstract and less tangible than with livestock (hopefully).

And feeding table scraps (or unwanted food) to dogs certainly isn’t new. That’s a big part of why dogs became domesticated in the first place. And I’m guessing plenty of dogs over the last millennia or so ate some rather rancid meat.

imageBut I doubt many veterinarians would support the practice today — nitrates or not. Dogs have dietary needs like any living creature. Then again, I think many vets and owners are a bit too attuned to what dogs eat. I don’t disagree with this bit of doggy diet satire, courtesy of Will Ferrell (at the 1:40 mark).

Still, getting sick in exchange for extra protein isn’t so sweet of a tradeoff (even if canines aren’t necessarily put off by a little vomit. Quite the opposite!). Sliced deli meat is one of the more perishable foods out there; the quite-conservative USDA recommendation is to store it no more than one to two months in your freezer. And while dogs are fabulously omnivorous, dodgy salami might be outside their traditional cuisine. That is, unless you’re pup descends from a long line of Italian dumpster divers.

Anyway, it seems like I’ve made a short answer long. So here’s the crux of the matter: How are you defining ‘funny?’ If you mean that it’s gag inducing or just plain smells ‘bad,’ don’t give it to your dog. If you can stomach it but don’t enjoy the taste or texture, then Fido won’t mind at all. He may ask for a nice Asiago to go with it, though.

As for the appearance, don’t fret that freezer browning—dogs are color blind!

Happy Tails,
— WFD

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