- Apr 16, 2018
I have a cousin who worked for a major pet food manufacturer. He visited me once to hand over a bag of a new dog food that they had recently started selling. My dog absolutely loved it; he ate three servings in one go! I doubt dogs would like eating food that doesn’t taste very good. So I asked my cousin: who tests these foods and makes sure they taste good? I mean, I know dogs have the final say on the taste, but surely someone has to taste-test it first, right?
My cousin gave me a knowing grin… dude must get asked that a lot. Turns out, people are the first ones to test their dog foods. When I turned pale, he laughed and reassured me that pet food was perfectly safe. Safe for doggo, safe for owner. Food technicians are usually the first ones to test it, he said. But they also have a list of… uhm, regular taste testers. These are regular people who earn money by tasting dog food.
I thought he was pulling my leg, then I found this article. Simon Allison, who is profiled in the article, is probably the most famous pet food taster on the planet. The guy does this full-time. This piqued my interest. Can tasting pet food actually be lucrative? And what exactly does the job entail?
So I did some additional research, and I’m sharing my findings here. You’re probably wondering if I ended up giving this a try? Read to the very end of this article to find out! I’ll also be sharing my recommendations later.
The US pet food industry is worth over $28 billion! A lot of that money goes into research and development, which is where food tasting falls under. Now, you won’t become a billionaire doing this, but surprisingly there’s still a lot of money to be made.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that the average pet food taster made over $70,000 a year! No, I didn’t add a few extra zeroes by mistake. That’s 70,000 cool, crisp dollars to eat pet food. The job pays better than most office jobs out there.
The more I thought about it, the more the salary made sense. The pet industry is ultra-competitive, and when a person tastes the food, they can provide more detailed feedback. That feedback could help the company make their product better than the competition.
Also, there’s bit of a stigma attached to doing this. And that’s why pet food companies pay so much: it’s to incentivize tasters.
We often hear the words “human grade” or “pet grade” which implies that there are foods only fit for animals. But to a taste-tester, these labels are meaningless. The food is clean and safe, so what’s the problem? Also, they actually make more money than regular officer goers, so they get the last laugh.
Doing the Job
It’s really no different from taste-testing people food. The pet food company sends you samples of food to taste. Your job is to provide feedback on the food before the company mass-produces it.
You’ll note your opinion on things like taste, texture, and yes, even mouthfeel. Most taste-testers don’t swallow the food.
But what isn’t like other tasting jobs is that you’ll have to analyze the food from a pet’s perspective. As a person, you might not like the food, but would a dog like it? It helps to understand the psychology of the animal the food was meant for. For example, dogs aren’t very picky about their food, which is why dog food is slightly bland. As a taster, you’ll have to take that into account.
And that’s it, pretty much. Taste food, record your opinions, send back to pet food company.
While the food technicians my cousin mentioned all had fancy science and nutrition degrees, their taste testers had all sorts of backgrounds. One lady was a theater actress who did this during the off-season.
The only hard requirements are the ability to “experience” the food the way a pet would, and to be able to write down findings clearly.
It may sound easy (once you get past the ick factor) but this is a highly demanding and specialized job. The pet companies wouldn’t pay so much if just anyone could do this!
Where to Find Pet Food Taster Jobs
If you’ve made it this far, chances are you’re curious about the job. Maybe you’d even like to give it a try!
Pet food companies don’t always publicly advertise these jobs, and for good reason. While there’s nothing inherently wrong or harmful with tasting pet food, it could give the company some bad PR.
The best place to check is with the companies themselves. Contact their HR department and be upfront about your inquiry. Don’t worry; it may seem strange asking them for pet food tasting jobs, but they’re probably used to hearing about it. I would recommend being professional with your inquiry. This is a serious matter.
This is a legit way to make big money! How do I know? Yep, I gave this a try! For a year, I tasted dry cat food. In case you were wondering, it tastes really salty and fishy. That was a very lucrative year for me, and I earned enough to start my own (non-pet-related) business. It’s not for everyone, but I still recommend it.
This article is based on my experiences as a pet food taster. Now it’s your turn to share. Have you given this a try? How did you find the job, and how much have you earned?
Let’s hear your stories!