Recently a lot of newspaper columns in the UK and comments on social media has featured criticism of the English celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for adding chorizo to paella in a “new” recipe. This has resulted in both widespread condemnation, particularly from Spain, and also praise for daring to embark on evolution of a traditional recipe. Don’t get me wrong, as a foodie I am a passionate believer that we need to preserve (no pun intended) traditional cuisine like paella. I can consider myself privileged enough to have eaten traditionally made paella in Valencia and in this context the criticism is justified.
However, two other points leap out and strike me: –
- We are facing a future where we risk bringing up our children with a severely limited knowledge about food and cooking skills. What Oliver has done might just spark on interest in children to experiment with recipes and ingredients.
- There should be freedom of choice in what we choose to eat and what ingredients we use. The key points are that it should be food that we want to eat, is nutritious and is safe to eat.
It goes without saying that we should not forget that for many food poverty is an everyday fact of life, where they don’t have access to the food they would like or have a diet that is limited nutritionally. This is a serious problem that requires to be addressed in the 21st Century.
For those of us fortunate enough not to be prey to food poverty, freedom of choice in food selection and the ability to experiment with recipes plays a key role in defining what we eat, allows access to a varied diet and stimulates an interest in food. Some nutritionists will throw up their hands in horror about adding a food, chorizo, that is “high” in fat and salt to an otherwise healthy dish based on rice with the addition of chicken, seafood, snails or vegetables. The key things at the end of the day is that the resulting dish is palatable, nutritious and safe to eat.
If we switch focus and think about how we feed our pets we see a commercial petfood market with diverse formats that include dry, semi-moist, wet, frozen, chilled and freeze dried products. This gives pet owners access to petfood that is affordable, is palatable, is nutritional, is safe for our pets to eat and freedom of choice in what way they choose to feed their pets. All of these are key elements of the humanization process that is driving growth in the global petfood market.
In some ways the recent evolution of commercial petfood to include formats like raw, chilled and frozen is little different to Jamie Oliver’s perceived crime against humanity in adding chorizo to a traditional food. In doing so his evolution of a product format (traditional paella) has created a new product that consumers want to eat i.e. it is palatable, is nutritious (just watch the fat and salt content!) and is safe to eat.
In recent years, much has been written in the pet food industry press and peer-reviewed scientific journals about the safety and nutritional adequacy of raw and frozen petfood. There is little doubt that these present new food safety hazards e.g. Listeria and questions also exist about their nutritional profile in terms of completeness i.e. meeting the nutritional requirements of cats and dogs. However, with appropriate due diligence in recipe design and food safety these product formats can offer greater freedom of choice to pet owners in how they feed their cats and dogs.
As an industry we need to work together to ensure that we recognise the benefits of feeding raw and frozen pet foods and provide pet owners with freedom of choice in availability of safe, nutritionally balanced products. Fail to do this and the industry exposes itself to the risk that the perception of lack of trust in commercial petfood will once again be raised.
However other risks also exist. If we restrict freedom of choice through introduction of new products we also risk snuffing out innovation. Failure to innovate increases the risk that the petfood industry will stagnate and cease to grow.
Paella with or without chorizo? Wet pet food in a processed or “raw/frozen” state? The choice is yours. Enjoy the freedom of choice!