Re: Looking for Rodent Diet [Quite long reply]

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From:"J. A. Kiernan" <>
To:Histonet <>
Date:Sun, 30 May 1999 00:06:46 -0400 (EDT)
Content-Type:TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

On Fri, 28 May 1999, Bourassa, Patricia wrote:

> I'm trying to find a company (we were told it was in the UK) that 
> supplies rodent diets.   Can anyone help?


  Rodents can contribute significantly to our diet. Some previously
  unpublished (though poorly planned and controlled) older bbservations
  follow, with discussion. I'm afraid it's a bit long, but you can
  always skip to the end or just delete it all .
                                                  P. Bear.


  In the UK in the early 1960s, there were 5 of us in an intercalated
  BSc year, which was devoted almost completely to a research project.
  It was an extremely busy time, and we were all in the lab until at
  least 8 or 9 pm, nearly every day from May until April of the next
  year. We usually took a meal break about 6 pm and went to the
  University Refectory (a cafeteria), but there were a few occasions 
  when funds were low and the lab contained plenty of our recently 
  killed albino Wistar rats.


  Skinned, gutted and roasted in a laboratory oven,
  these rats provided a quantity of edible meat.

  Our observations made in the course of these culinary studies were:

   (a) Roasted lab rat is edible and wholesome. 
   (b) Like some other wholesome foods it is almost tasteless - the 
       heart is the only part with a meaty flavour. I can't
       remember if we tried the liver and/or kidneys. If we did
       they made no lasting impression with me.
   (c) Even a large rat does not contain nearly enough muscle to
       provide a decent helping for one person, and it goes cold
       while you're scraping it off the bones. It was usually
       necessary to buy supplementary liquid nutrients afterwards, 
       at the local pub. This was nevertheless slightly less expensive
       than the Refectory, if we observed due moderation.


   Most of the nutritional content of a rodent must be in parts that
   many humans disdain - the skin and the intestines (including
   their contents). Birds of prey eat the lot, without benefit of
   cooking, and convert it into feathers, beaks, muscles and guts,
   and also eggs. Our experiment was therefore flawed because we
   deliberately degraded the carcases by removing parts that
   happened to be unfashionable to kids in their late teens or
   early twenties, at that particular time, in Britain.
   In this less anthropocentric age, students are fully aware of the 
   bias that speciesism can inject into any investigation of the ways 
   in which animals are abused by other animals. Further research,
   conducted by younger scientists, should settle questions about the
   dietary value of rodents. Probably they will recommend that the
   smaller organisms (i.e. mice) be consumed whole: guts, hair, bones 
   and all. This fits in well with our long accepted human attitude to 
   very small fish such as whitebait (2 to 3 cm long), which are 
   delicious when fried in large numbers.

   It needs only a small extension of the Whitebait Principle to 
   determine that we can safely eat whole mice (humanely trapped,
   of course, and collected the next day), if we become much less
   fussy about the appearance, texture and flavour of our food.
   It would probably contravene some laboratory safety codes to eat 
   whole mice without cooking, especially ones used in experiments with 
   pathogenic bacteria. For a whole rat it would probably be easiest
   to make a soup in a blender. Again, cooking seems wise even if it
   removes some of the vitamins.

   Guinea pigs were a major component of the diet of the indigenous
   people of Darkest Peru: easy to keep in a low pen in the hut, 
   pleasing to play with, easy to catch, and with more fat and muscle
   than smaller rodents. The encyclopedia doesn't say if they were
   eaten whole or in part, cooked or raw. It is certainly possible
   to digest a guinea pig that has been swallowed intact; ask anyone
   who keeps a python for a pet.
  Hope this helps, though I realize that it doesn't provide you with
  the name & address of a supplier. Unfortunately I can't remember 
  who supplied the rodent diets that we tested more than 35 years ago, 
  but it surely should not be necessary to import from another country. 
  When you have found a source and made your own tests, please get in
  touch. Perhaps we could jointly submit a paper to some journal of
  nutritional science. By 2020 it might become a Citation Classic in
  Current Contents:  Bourassa & Bear (2000) The value of rodent diets
  for research workers: a 38-year anecdotal follow-up study with appended
  recipes. J. Exp. Nutr. Sci. Fi. 432(1), 234-567.

  The greatest value of the InterNet is the way it can bring together
  scientists who have never met one another, and enable collaboration
  in research with daily communication.

  P. Addington Bear

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