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Tzav – The Rosh Yeshiva Responds – Using Pet Food That is Less Than 50% Chametz on Pesach

by Rabbi Dov Linzer (Posted on March 28, 2024)
Topics: Moadim/Holidays, Pesach, Rosh Yeshiva Responds, Sefer Vayikra, Torah, Tzav

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QUESTION—Denver, CO

Rabbi Linzer, what is your view on using pet food on Pesach that is ta’arovet chametz—less than 50% percent grain—instead of trying to find grain-free pet food? This is important to dog owners who find it difficult to switch foods. I understand that the hesitancy on this is whether or not dog food can be classified as nifsal mei’achilat adam (not fit for human consumption). It seems to me that even though it may be made tolerable to humans by adding things to it, cooking it etc., that the standard should be how it is meant to be eaten and batla da’ato etzel kol bnei adam (his unique/odd tastes don’t have halakhic implications).

ANSWER

A question we need to consider is whether the fact that “humans won’t stomach it,” because it’s made out of parts of the animal we are repulsed by, is enough to make it eino ra’uy (not deemed edible), since in terms of the actual taste, texture, etc., it might very much be ra’uy. If it was packaged as ground beef, and no one was the wiser, would people eat it and say “this is disgusting”? Or would it taste good/acceptable?

This reminds me of a scene from “Around the World in 80 days” where the traveler says to a boat captain—this food is delicious. What is it? And the captain responds (I think): “Cat”. Suddenly the person eating it finds it disgusting and repulsive and spits it out.

This issue comes up in the discussion of ta’am lifgam (a flavor that spoils food)see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 107:2:

Flies and similar disgusting things that repulse people and which are found cooked food—one may pick them out and the food remains permitted because the emission of disgusting items does not render food forbidden.

The need for this ruling is exactly because the principle of ta’am lifgam wouldn’t tell you the halakha of the taste of flies (maybe they taste good), and yet it is considered ta’am lifgam because we are disgusted by it. So—does that mean the same would apply to dog food? Maybe. But there is quite likely a big difference between ta’am (taste) and be’eyn (actual). If you were to eat the fly itself, you would be chayav (liable) even though you are disgusted by it. So unless you say that is a gazeirat ha’katuv (biblical decree) it could be an indication to the opposite meaning that this disgust does not suffice when dealing with be’eyn. So, in order to give a ruling I would like to find out how dog food really tastes.

To that end, here’s an exchange I found on the web:

Person A: My dog’s food is basically meat + some soy + some other grains. What do they do to dog food that makes it taste so bad? Lower quality meat? Cooking it to death (canning)? The constitutive ingredients are all pretty good.

Person B: they’re probably pretty indiscriminate about the cut of meat that goes in there. Likely parts we wouldn’t ordinarily eat—that wouldn’t even go into salami or hot dogs because of off flavors. Plus some of the binders are no doubt unpleasant. Some are amino acids which contain sulfur. Good thing dogs have fewer taste buds than we do- they won’t detect the bitter and sour notes.

So it sounds like it would only be eaten besh’at ha’dechak (in exigent situations), which would make it unfit for human consumption, but I think some more investigation would be worthwhile.

Bottom line is that I think there are rationales that permit the use of this dog food if there is no other viable option, or the kosher for Pesach option is unduly expensive. However, le’chatchila (from the outset), all things being equal, I would advise searching out grain-free dog food.

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