Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Dawn of Comercial Animal Food

One reason for our family moving from the city of New Haven to The Town of Orange in 1930 was to provide my father, Leon F. Whitney with the space he needed to keep large numbers of dogs to study the inheritance of characteristics. As an example breeds of dogs that were born to hunt for birds run with their heads held high where as a bloodhound runs with his nose to the ground. If crossed would the puppies grow up to run like a setter or a bloodhound? The answer is that all the puppies run with their heads held high. To breed and raise large numbers of dogs takes a lot of food and in those days there was no balanced ration for any animals other than for rats and mice. With 18 or 20 bloodhounds and many coon hounds and various collies, cocker spaniels and beagles and other breeds there was a need for a good balanced food. So what to do? The answer was simple, compound one ourselves. Dad had anticipated an attempt to solving that problem and when our garage was planned an extra closed in bay of the garage was planned. It would be a "rat" laboratory heated with an oil stove. Dad constructed shelves from floor to ceiling. He made rat cages out of hardware cloth which is the name of quarter inch wire mesh with elevated bottoms and no tops. The shelves above would be the tops of the cages.
I don't recall where he got a few pairs of rats but in a year the shelves were full of occupied rat cages. That was the time when the members of the veterinary profession declared that dogs were carnivores and had to have fresh meat to flourish.
It was my paid job to care for the 200 or so rats. Food and water daily and clean the cages weekly. The salary was $1 a week. Each cage of the two top shelves had 4 adult females and one male. It was my job to separate the pregnant females before they gave birth. The weened youngsters would be divided half as controls and half on a different diet and each young rat was weighed weekly to compare weight gains of the two groups. Soon we had a rat food that would grow rats twice as fast and healthier than the commercial rat food. Food for our White Isle Kennel required purchasing all the ingredients necessary and mixing and storing it. My father studied nutrition and found we required 24 different ingredients. The two car garage was sanitized and the bases of the diet, bread meal was piled on one side of the garage with ingredient such as alfalfa leaf meal, bone, fish, beef and on and on with each carefully weighed down to small quantities. Then began a slow process of shoveling the pile to the other side of the garage to mix it. At first we mixed several hundred pounds and eventually a thousand pounds at a time. To be sure some of the trace elements were well mixed required hours of shoveling back and forth.
In studying the per cent protien and trace elements in each component of the food and minerals as well as the same values in each ingreedient resulted in necessary nutritionsl knowledge. It amounted to a self learned home earned degree in canine nutritian.
At this time, questioning the knowledge of that time that dogs could not tolerate much fat in their diets, dad wondered about that idea when he knew dogs often killed animals such as woodchucks and ate the whole animal including the fat. Inquiring about beef fat he was told he could have all he wanted for the taking as the butcher had to pay to dispose of it. Soon dad found his dogs could tolerate up to 20 per cent of their diets as fat and flourished. The new food with fat added resulted in the healthiest looking and active hunting dogs imaginable.
For a short time we donated food to a few kennel owners and the results were so outstanding a company put the formula on the market and that was really the start of the commercial pet food industry in our country. It started as Baloration in Brooklyn, NY, was purchased by Tioga Mills in Waverly, NY and renamed Tioga Dog food. During WWII the formula became too expensive and rather than cheapening the formula my father insisted on stopping the production.
It was royalties from the sales of that dog food that later paid for a veterinary degree for both my father and for me.

1 comment:

  1. That is something I have wondered for a long time now, how it was that you and your father could leave Orange and go as far as Georgia for your degrees at the same time. That puts a lot into perspective for me.