The taste of dog food? It’s harder than you think to identify

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Pate or dog food? Either could be yummy.

That’s because you probably wouldn’t be able to differentiate which is which in a blind tasting, according to a study scheduled to be released today by the American Assn. of Wine Economists.

Researchers provided 18 volunteers five food samples to try in a blind taste test. Only three were able to identify the canine fodder.

“We have this idea in our head that dog food won’t taste good and that we would be able to identify it, but it turns out that is not the case,” said Robin Goldstein, a co-author of the study that is expected to be published online today.


Goldstein said the tasting demonstrated that “context plays a huge role in taste and value judgment,” even though researchers warned the participants that one of the five foods they were going to taste was dog food.

The five samples came from a wide price range and were processed to have a similar consistency. The foods were duck liver mousse, pork liver pate, two imitation pates -- pureed liverwurst and Spam -- and Newman’s Own dog food.

Eight participants believed the liverwurst was the dog food, and four thought the Spam was the culprit.

Two people identified the high-end pate as dog food, and one identified the duck liver mousse as dog food.

Hildegarde Heymann, a sensory scientist at UC Davis who was not involved with the study, said she was surprised that so few people were able to identify the dog food.

“It is specially formulated for dogs and would likely stand out,” Heymann said.

And it did stand out: 72% rated the dog food as the worst-tasting pate.