business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB yesterday took note of a Bloomberg report that there seems to be a shift in attitude on the part of pet owners, many of whom until recently seemed willing to spend considerable dollars on indulgences for their dogs, cats and other pets. A new sense of economy seems to be taking place, which I suggested equates to some level of sanity, and I added:

Maybe it is just me, but I’ve always wondered about why it is so important to feed gourmet, organic pet food to animals that will, in their spare time, lick their genitals.

One MNB user responded:

Couldn’t the same be said for children who eat their own boogers?  “Why feed them organic carrots and greek yogurt, when they’re just going to go to school and eat glue?”  While I’m not saying that children should necessarily be equated to pets, for many people this IS the case.  For couples who choose not to have children, or are prolonging starting a family…many times “Fido” is your “furbaby”.  I also don’t think the importance is on being “gourmet” or “organic”, but rather just made with real ingredients.

We’re seeing the shift in the way humans buy foods for themselves and their family.  We want to consume real fuel; ingredients that are real meat, real vegetables, real fruits and not just corn fillers and processed foods.  People are beginning to pay more attention to the labels on pet food and are realizing to get “real” food, you have to pay a premium.  I’d also like to note that for many pet owners, they’re realizing and noticing the health benefits of feeding their pets “real” food.  The number one allergy in dogs is wheat.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of this is due to humans introducing this into their diets in the form of processed dog foods.  Dogs with allergies are greatly affected by the symptoms of biting/itching their paws, swollen ears, and “hot spots”.  Your pets’ quality of life is greatly impacted by what you put into their bodies. We know this is true for humans so why would it not be for pets?

If people have the means to do so, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with treating your pet like any other member of the family.

First of all, I would be one of those people who can be a little skeptical when people equate pets to kids.

Secondly, I’d just like to point out that we’ve now had the words “genitals” and “boogers” on MNB. You can’t get that kind of pungent, literate, Noel Coward-esque commentary from my nominal competition.

Another MNB user wrote:

In many cases, especially dogs, they treat and protect man better than man treats and protects them. They are loyal to a fault, become not only a member of the family, but our best friend. That while I agree gourmet food maybe taking it a bit far, these animals look to us for leadership, compassion, and help. At the end of the day, I’d rather take my dog (Hans) to lunch then some people I know, as he has earn it.

And, from another MNB user:

Then again, you can’t get much more organic than licking your own body parts. We have always fed our pets Purina from our local Wal-Mart. I never understood why you would spend more on your pet’s food than on your own. We love our cat, but there is a limit to our resources and as much as she contributes to our mental health, she contributes nothing to our financial health.

Not only is it organic, but you could also say it is local. Really, really local.

On the subject of the continued decline of the US Postal Service, one MNB user wrote:

I’d like to hear some other’s thoughts on why simply eliminating 1-2 days per week mail delivery, does not seem to be on the table for discussion.

My personal perspective is that 70-80% of my mail is junk anyway, so I’d only have to stand over the trash can 4-5 days a week instead of 6.

I receive no checks in the mail, I use as much on-line bill pay as possible… for me, mail once or twice a week would be fine.

I know there are legit reasons why many folks need more frequent service than I, but must it be 6 days? Why not lose a day or two?

Certainly this would be a HUGE savings, and a better option than closing facilities?

People need to adjust their thinking about how we use the Post Office and its services in the future…the not too distant future.

Think about how many people no longer have a “home phone”. We discovered we no longer needed it. Things change.

MNB user Karen Shunk wrote:

I think the real issue with the post office is that they are being forced to act like a private company instead of what they are, a public good.  No one builds roads, lays electric lines or treats water to make a profit (or even to break even).  This is infrastructure designed to make everything else possible.

While I think there are plenty of economies the post office could be pursuing, what really needs to happen is for the government (that’s Congress in this case because they “control” the purse strings), to stop insisting that USPS be self funded much less make a profit, and to really consider what the role of the USPS is in 21st century America.

Only when there is a clear goal for the postal service to pursue, rather than just the bottom line, will they be able to get their house in order.  And let’s stop complaining about front line employees a little and consider what a joyful place to work the post office must be.  A little empathy might be in order.

From another MNB user:

The USPS is committing suicide. Making its service slower and less dependable will drive consumers to pay more bills online rather than risk late fees caused by slow postal delivery. They'll move to paperless billing rather than receive bills late and need to scramble to pay on time. It already takes the USPS two weeks to deliver my weekly newspaper, making the paper irrelevant by the time I get it, and Christmas cards arrive in January. The USPS' inability to deliver efficiently created the opening for Fedex, and now their first class service is becoming unreliable. They will become a junk mail delivery service and therefore irrelevant to most people.

Responding to yesterday’s story about Walmart opening its first Los Angeles Neighborhood Market store in that city’s Chinatown, one MNB user wrote:

I grew up in LA and spent 20 years with Von's working in over 150 stores, many intercity and they are a challenge at best. WM doesn't have talent or expertise to do this as most Neighborhood Market stores don't make money - including the one in Champions (Rogers AR), which senior management drives by daily.

On the subject of labeling of genetically modified ingredients in foods, one MNB user wrote:

It might sound like a snap, but as someone responsible for labeling at a major retailer, I have to  speak up about the complexities of labeling genetically engineered (aka GMO) ingredients.  Genetically engineered (GE) crops are so common that it’s easier to point to where they are not used.  That is, by definition, certified organic foods cannot be grown from genetically engineered seeds.  In order to accurately label for GE content, we would need a mandatory certification system for those higher premium “GE Free” products that are neither organic nor genetically engineered.

Since first introduced in 1995, farmers have become loyal to GE seeds.  This technology saves farmers $$$ on petroleum, labor and agricultural chemicals.  According to the USDA, America’s farmers are now planting 55-95% of the corn, soy, canola and cotton crops with GE seeds, the ingredients of which find their way into an estimated 75% of the products in our stores.

Do food additives like yeast, enzymes and vitamins count if they were produced through genetic engineering? (Many are.)  How about beef, pork, chicken, milk and eggs produced from animals that were fed GE crops?  (That’s almost everything other than organic versions.) Would cosmetics, clothing and drugs need to be labeled?  (Many contain GE ingredients.) It would be a crazy for us to sort out!  And since it’s very difficult to measure the difference in finished products, it would be a nightmare to police.  FDA/USDA would need to set up a system with a paper trail like that of certified organic.  And why, when certified organic already prohibits this?  Seems like a redundancy without a benefit.

If consumers feel that this is important, and the evidence is that some do, maybe we should consider a more manageable strategy.  Based on availability and consumer demand, we already can source and voluntarily label “GE free” products.  I also could imagine a mandatory system to label single ingredient products that are the direct result of genetic engineering.  However, few products would get labeled, since most uses of GE corn, soy, canola and cottonseed are as animal feed or in formulated products.

Not so simple!

Another MNB user wrote:

If we need to label generic medicines, even if they are identical to the original prescription formula, then we should be labeling the origins of our food. And, BTW, if it is genetically modified, then it is not identical to the original.
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