By and large, pet food companies do a fine job of making their produce look as appealing as possible. Adverts featuring happy cats dining on the finest fish, or dogs chowing down on what looks like a top notch roast dinner are as good an indicator as any that we like our pets to get the best.
However, as anyone who’s actually opened a can of pet food will attest, the reality is far less satisfying. The waft of dog food is perhaps one of the least appetizing smells you can come across in a kitchen. The prospect of eating whatever animal parts are responsible is enough to make anyone gag.
With this in mind, the chosen career of professional pet food taster Phillip Wells seems all the more heroic. The expert tinned treat connoisseur works for premium UK-based brand Lily’s Kitchen, and is totally dedicated to ensuring that every can that leaves the factory is made to the business’ exacting quality standards. This means taste testing every single type of pet food that Lily’s Kitchen creates.
Speaking to The Guardian, Wells revealed that there’s a whole lot more to the job than taking a forkful of kibble and trying not to throw up. “Although dogs’ palates are different to ours, taste is an important quality check to ensure each different ingredient is perfectly balanced in just the right way,” he revealed to a horrified journalist.
Over the years, Wells, whose official title is in fact “Technical Director at Lily’s Kitchen”, has developed a list of personal favourites from the milieu of pet food options. He has developed a particular penchant for Lily’s “Lovely Lamb with Peas and Parsley”. Discussing the dish with The Metro, Wells revealed that, “it’s always a pleasure to quality check this one as the recipe is one of the best, but it’s also great for this time of year – it’s our lowest fat dry food”. Clearly, dog food can help the diet conscious pet owner in more ways than one.
Despite Wells’ obvious enthusiasm for his unusual profession, he does admit that there are drawbacks. As in any career, the pressure of deadlines is always an unwelcome stressor. Plus, he dreads the prospect of having to check out other, less salubrious pet food brands than Lily’s. Discussing these field tests, Wells states that, “There are some pretty gruesome pet foods out there and although I don’t taste them, the smell is enough to turn the stomach when I do a bit of market research.”
Despite the fairly niche requirements of the position, Wells is a passionate advocate for others to enter a career in pet food testing. Discussing the sector in general, Wells revealed that, while entry level positions can command a salary of £20,000, experienced technical directors can “easily achieve” £50,000 p.a. Wells adds that “no two days are ever the same” and that it is incredibly rewarding to “help pets become healthier and happier”. While certainly unusual, it seems that eating dog food for a living isn’t as horrible as you would first think.