For $1 million, would you agree to eat nothing but dog food for one year?

| March 24, 2008 | 14 Replies

This is a no-brainer, or so I thought.  Before asking my extended family this question at a family gathering this weekend, I assumed that everyone would agree to my hypothetical proposal.  As distasteful as it might seem at first, I assumed that everyone in the room would (if given the opportunity) agree that they would eat nothing but dog food for one year in return for $1 million.

I write this post having tasted dog food on two occasions in past years.  On those two occasions, I’d chomped on a nugget of dry dog food, the kind that comes in a 40 pound bag.  I thought it tasted like cardboard, but it was not disgusting.  On the other hand, it was not food I would be inclined to eat again unless given an incentive.  Note: I have smelled canned dog food before, and I would not be inclined to eat that stuff.  The canned dog food I smelled had a strong disgusting odor to it.  It looked and smelled like it was no longer safe to eat.

So there I stood with various members of my family in my mother’s kitchen when I raised the question: who would be willing to eat nothing but dog food for the next year in return for $1 million?  To my surprise, the rejections and objections started pouring in, even though I went first and even though I proudly stated that my answer was absolutely “yes.”

Two of my sisters and my mother each rejected the idea out of hand. I listened to their excuses and I thought that I addressed all their objections, but they continued to reject the hypothetical offer.  One sister was concerned that if she went to all that work eating dog food for one year, they wouldn’t actually pay her the $1 million.  Therefore I changed the hypothetical so that it included an escrow account held by a person or institution she trusted.  Still, she refused to buy into the program.

Another concern (raised by a brother-in-law) was that even if dog food might provide most of the nutrition needed by a human being, it might not provide all of the vitamins and nutrients needed by humans.  Therefore, it might be dangerous over the course of the year.  Fair enough.  In response, I agreed that anyone engaging in this endeavor could take any vitamins or supplements that one might need (but that dog food might not provide).  That same brother in law then indicated that he might be willing to join the program, but only for $2 million.

I urged everyone to be honest.  We were talking about $1 million.  This is enough money to allow people to retire. I reminded everyone that they could buy their dog food at any supermarket or any pet store.  Their dog food could include any commercially available product labeled “dog food,” and this could include any type of dog food, dry or canned food, entrées or dog treats (I was hoping that the phrase “dog treats” would get everyone more excited about signing up for this hypothetical deal, but it didn’t).

dog-food-lo-res.jpg

I wasn’t suggesting that they would have to eat their dog food on the floor or that they would have to eat it out of a doggie dish.  They would merely have to agree to eat dog food, in any position.  They could light candles before dinner if that ambiance made the difference.  The main rule is that all of the food that they ate would have to be actual dog food.  The only fluid that they would be able to drink would be water, since that’s the only liquid that most people give to their dogs.

In the course of discussing the issue, I told my family that a good friend of mine fed his son some dry dog food when the boy was three, with no ill consequences.  One of my brothers-in-law indicated that when he was small, he offered a neighbor kid (“Kurt”) 25-cents if Kurt would eat two soggy chunks of dry dog food that had fallen in the dog’s water. “Kurt” accepted the offer and ate the dog food.  Again, there were no ambulances or any untoward circumstances.

I reminded my family that they should consider the wonderful-sounding advertisements for dog food.  For instance, Purina’s Pro Plan Dog Food purports to give your dog everything your dog needs to be a happy and healthy dog: 

Dogs bring companionship, love, and more to our lives. Give more to your dog when you choose Pro Plan® dog food. Meet all of your dog’s nutritional needs with premium food; with real protein and healthy nutritional extras. With Pro Plan®, you are providing the building blocks of good health and a delicious selection of choices.

As often happens in my mother’s kitchen, the topic veered toward weightier moral issues.  This injection of morality into this frivolous hypothetical reminded me of a conclusion once announced by a philosopher friend (“Tim”): “Morality starts with what you are willing to put into your mouth.”

One basic moral angle was this: Shouldn’t one be willing to eat anything that one make one’s dog eat? 

That objection didn’t seem to have much traction.  But then my mother modified the hypothetical.  What if you were offered the chance to magically achieve world peace if you ate dog food for one year?  That question drew some affirmative head nodding.  Same result for this question that I raised: “What if someone agreed to fund medical treatment to cure 1,000 children who are dying of malaria if only you would eat dog food for one year?  The elephant in the room is that there are millions of people starving to death who would jump at the opportunity to eat any food at all, even dog food (Starvation.net suggests that on September 11, 2001, 35,000 people died of starvation–a comparable number of people die every single day).

Back in my mother’s kitchen, the conversation turned back to one of fairness to the dog.  Can you really have it both ways?  Shouldn’t the rule be that if you aren’t willing to eat dog food neither should your dog?  This fairness issue didn’t seem to change any votes. 

In the end, I was the only clear and strong “yes” vote: I was the only one in the room who expressed that I was willing to eat nothing but dog food for one year in return for $1 million.   Perhaps everyone else was too focused on recent reports on the kinds of things that manufacturers put into pet food. 

All I will need to do now is find someone willing to pay me $1 million so I can get started.

I would add one more item to this hypothetical.   I would agree that if you wanted to quit partway through the year (e.g., if you just couldn’t stand it anymore–or if it was making you sick), you could, but you wouldn’t receive any money unless you eat dog food for the entire year.   

Questions to consider:

1.  Would you sign up for this arrangement if it were offered to you: Would you be willing to eat nothing but dog food for one year, in exchange for $1 million?

2. If you would not sign up, name your price if you have one.   How much would someone have to pay you so that you would eat nothing but dog food for an entire year?

For those of you who find this entire topic of eating dog food distressing, I am reminded of an old joke sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill:

Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

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Category: Consumerism, Food, Health, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (14)

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  1. Erika Price says:

    I smell a new fad diet! Or maybe someone just opened a can of Fancy Feast…

  2. A'Llyn says:

    I remember quite liking dry dog food when I was about 6 or 7. It tasted kind of like crackers. Mm, crunchy stuff!

    I was puzzled that my mom seemed disturbed when I told her I'd been eating it, since I couldn't see any problem. Of course, I'd probably get really tired of it after a few months of nothing else.

    Nevertheless, for $1 million?–I'd certainly give it some serious thought. My main question would be, who's paying me, and what's in it for them?

  3. Ben says:

    I'd do it for 100,000 bucks. But it would have to be gourmet. :)

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    Your extended family must never have been hungry. Dog food is better fare than many people get on a daily basis. As for myself, I'd insist on the vitamin clause, or at least the right to eat greens. Dogs do supplement their packaged diets with greens, and they are mainly carnivores.

    2 megabucks? He was haggling for a better deal just for the sake of the game.

    I think that the "world peace" offer was more readily accepted than cash because of its fairy-tale likelihood. A million dollars is routinely offered on game shows, but world peace (usually assumed to mean permanent) is an unattainable ideal. As long as there is an "us" and a "them" surviving, there will be conflict. Remember Cain and Abel.

  5. Rick Sparks says:

    I'd do it for $100,000! Bring it! My coat could stand to be more shiny anyway.

  6. Michael says:

    Answer? No. Absolutely not.

    First, a million isn't exactly as much as it used to be. You could probably retire, for awhile.

    Second, dog food is way too high in protein for human consumption. Not to mention that vitamin supplements are not absorbed in your body in the same way the real thing is.

    You'd actually be quite ill after a very short time, and honestly, it's just money.

    I can make my own money and eat fillet mignon whenever I choose.

    Life is way too short to worry about money or eat bad food.

  7. Michael says:

    Oh, and to address the obvious question; if dogs eat it, then why is it bad for humans?

    Because humans are not dogs idiot. We have different nutritional requirements and whereas dogs actually require huge amounts of protein, humans require about 7 grams a week.

    There is a reason it's called "Dog Food" and not "Food".

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    OK. I deserved some of those responses. What if I reframed the question to this. What if some manufacturer could process some all-purpose "food" that is a nutritious blend developed specifically for humans? Assume that it would be a lot like eating breakfast cereal (though maybe not as tasty as most cereals) and that you'd eat it every meal of every day? Would that be something anyone could stomach for a year?

    My hidden agenda: I'm wondering whether a wide variety of tasty (and often fresh) foods is something humans actually NEED or whether it is simply a strong preference driven by our tongues and by social conventions.

  9. Michael says:

    You mean like the cereal they ate in The Matrix? Hmmm… Could I still use a little maple syrup like I do in my oatmeal?? :)

    The freshness of foods we crave is instinctual. We're animals in search of food that will help keep us strong in case of saber tooth tiger attack.

    I can totally dig the question, but honestly, I still think I'm sticking with a good ole' BLT now and again.

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    A friend of mine is dating a veterinarian. The vet told him that a person could survive quite well off of only dog food, even for a year. She told him that she would take the challenge if offered to her.

    On reading this post, my wife said that we do often eat something akin to dog food–we each vitamin enriched cereals. Maybe we could reformulate this hypothetical. If someone could manufacture a cereal that would provide all the basic nutrients for humans, would you eat it (and nothing else) for a year? In short, how important is it to you that you have the ability to taste different types and textures of food throughout the year?

  11. Krystina says:

    I would do it. I love dog food, canned or dry. Give me a dog treat and i'd be happy! Dog food isn't as bad as some human food i've tasted.

    Oh and milkbones…aren't my favorite…

  12. femke says:

    hello yeah i would do it! I would with either dog food and vitamins or some freaky all-purpous human cereal. I mean, a million dollars? let's see, i could study abroad, pay for college, buy myself a dream motorcycle, and then work for a couple of years and retire. perfect. besides, if it makes me nauseous, then i just won't eat for a day. and then become so hungry i'd have to eat it again. works out fine. I'm not sure if i could live with drinking anything but water, though. that might have to be negotiated.

  13. Rico says:

    I would eat just dog food for a year anyway, just to prove i could do it, haha! So yes, I would.

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