by Marion Nestle
May 16 2009

Weekend fun: dog food vs. pâté (and the winner is?)

I’ll bet that a study published by the American Association of Wine Economists will be a top candidate for this year’s IgNobel Prize (the prize given for “research that makes you laugh and then think”).  Investigators somehow convinced a bunch of volunteers to undergo a blind taste test of liver pâtés and dog food.  Participants knew that one of the samples was dog food, but not which one.  They gave the dog food the lowest marks on taste, but only 17% identified it as dog food.  Everyone else thought it was just bad pâté.  This must say something about the average American palate, alas.  To address that question, Stephen Colbert  did his own taste trial on camera.  Too salty, he says.  Indeed.

  • Jon

    Well, this proves something about American tastes. Then again, we all knew Americans were mostly familiar with sweet and salty, and little else.

  • Anthro

    I’m not sure I get it? Does “a blind test” mean that they were blindfolded? If so, I would think that with only “mouth feel” to do on, it would be difficult to tell what was what other than “flavor” and that the dog food would have the least of that as it would be the lowest in salt and spices.

    Even if they were not blindfolded, I think they would all look about the same. The only reason this is amusing is that we are talking about dog food, which is supposed to mean something horrible apparently. It’s just meat (in some form) and cereal and pate is just meat and spices, so what’s the big deal?

  • Salty Sort

    Yeah, I don’t get it either. How was anyone supposed to know what dog food tasted like? And that it would be something very salty?

    Also, it wasn’t just pate–the people also had to taste liverwurst and Spam.

    Finally, I see the test occurred on Dec. 31. It’s possible that the subjects’ palates were not at their most alert, shall we say.

  • vrutchka

    Anthro – in scientific studies, a “blind” test simply means that they did not know which was the pate and which was the dog food. The two items would have been presented as visually identical to prevent bias.

    A “double-blind” study is where neither the researcher nor subject knows which is which – placebo (pate) or treatment (dog food).

  • Anthro

    Thank you vrutchka and I know that; just didn’t know if it was the same for food tests. I still don’t think it proves much, just that pate is pretty much like dog food. I don’t think it says that Americans have no palate, but rather that in terms of sodium content, you’d be better off eating dog food.