Wednesday, January 30, 2013

There Was No Toilet Flavor

So we're in the middle of Season 14 of the Biggest Loser. Last night, Our America with Lisa Ling did an episode about overweight youth. There are gyms all over the country and workout tapes galore, but at the same time, the fitness culture and the food culture are in direct conflict, and food is winning.

It's not hard to see why. Aside from unhealthier food being generally cheaper- and more plentiful- the support structures aren't too different from an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. On one side, you have fitness, where you're told that you need to work hard, keep at it, stay vigilant  about your weight, make so many correct choices, and your reward is largely intangible and long-term: self-esteem, healthier body, longer life. On the other side, you have food, which promises far less effort and far faster, far more tangible rewards. If you can down this 72-ounce steak in an hour, you get a trophy, you get your picture on the restaurant wall, you have a whole restaurant full of people cheering you, and you get a tasty steak dinner for free.

And that's just the people.

In 1994, the Original Pet Drink Company placed on offer Thirsty Dog! and Thirsty Cat! bottled water. The company owner, Marc Duke, noted that the water contained "nine essential vitamins and minerals", unlike potentially unhealthy tap water, and came in Crispy Beef and Tangy Fish flavors. They were even FDA-rated to be fit for human consumption. Why, Duke drank Thirsty Dog himself.

There were a few problems with this.

First off, nobody felt like drinking anything meant for their pets. Except maybe Duke. You have fun with that, buddy, really. Second, your pets have been drinking tap water all this time and it doesn't seem to have hurt them any. So have you. That's a basic function of your municipal government: making sure your tap water isn't going to harm you. If it is harming you, they're not doing their job properly. And will soon face a lot of people leaving town unless they fix it. Third, the bottles cost $1.79 a liter. In 1994 dollars. Your water bill is less than that. The city of Madison, Wisconsin, after two decades worth of inflation, will give you 1,000 gallons for $2.81. Fourth, all the vitamins and minerals your pet needs are already there in their existing pet food. You don't need to throw the balance out of whack with their water.

Fifth, and most importantly, Thirsty Dog! and Thirsty Cat! had a fair amount of sugar content, and were carbonated. They weren't really bottled water at all. Carbonation, sugar, and flavoring means these were really sodas for pets. You think soda for humans has been pegged as unhealthy. At least we have the choice to drink it or not. Your cat doesn't choose what you put in the water dish.

I couldn't hunt down when Thirsty Dog! and Thirsty Cat! were taken off the market. It clearly wasn't long before they were.

Well, hey, more for Marc Duke.

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