…And Other Odd Things I Learned at Pedigree World HQ
Did you know that the people at Pedigree are very concerned with your dogs poop? I learned this surprising fact when I recently attended a two-day nutritional summit for writers at Pedigrees attractive headquarters, near Nashville.
The goal of the event was to introduce dog writers to Pedigrees newly tweaked dog-food formula, its upgraded look, and new message. All the talk about the new and improved food was well and good, but far more interesting to me was what I learned about a sort of behind the scenes aspect of making dog food. Since you probably were not there unless you are one of the 12 other dog writers in attendance, Ill give you the scoop. (And you will soon find this is a very appropriate word.)
Poop is a daily topic of discussion at Pedigree. At lunch Pedigree scientists and other staffers fling about terms like optimal stool quality and optimal stool volume in the same breath as could you please pass the barbecue sauce? It turns out that poop is important because it indicates not only how comfortable a dogs tummy is when digesting the food, and how well it is digested, but how pleasant it is for people to pick up their dogs poop.
Making people-pleasing poop is a really big deal in the dog food world. Poop thats too soggy or too hard just isnt OK for dogs or people. Theres a lot of discussion about something called back end performance. In other circles, you would not want to venture a guess as to what this means. At Pedigree, its all about poop quality.
Pedigree has a poop-rating poster thats akin to a state secret. The nice folks at Pedigree showed us a large poster featuring its very own Feces Scoring System. Grade 1 poop is crumbly, Grade 5 is watery diarrhea. Better is Grade 2, which the poster calls kickable. (You do not want to mistake anything higher than Grade 2 for Grade 2 if you are going to do the kick test. Trust me.) The ideal poop is Grade 2.5, they say. More on this perfect poop in a moment. I want to get to why the poster is almost a state secret. When a few of us went up to photograph the poster, we were shooed away with a No pictures, please! The poop posters people were able to control the pooparazzi pretty easily, but alas, you will not see a photo of the poster with this article.
Grade 2.5 poop rocks. Heres what Pedigree strives for when making its foods: a poop that is well formed, with a slightly moist surface which leaves a mark when picked up. Almost sticky to the touch. As you may have already guessed, thats the Grade 2.5 poop. A further feature, noted one scientist: You want it to look nice. I am always asking Jake to make nice-looking poop, but he doesnt always comply especially after he gets into the garbage. On those days hes a Grade 4 at best. Not suitable for framing.
The bottom line: I knew dog food companies are very concerned with palatability and nutrition, but I had no idea that back end performance was so important. The next time Jake makes a Grade 2.5, I will look at it with newfound admiration, and a smattering of relief that he did not get into the garbage again