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Dogs stealing jobs from pigs

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  September 4, 2013 12:01 PM

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There are only so many things a pig can do in the world, and one of them, at least historically, has been to hunt for truffles: Their instinct to root for mushrooms at the base of trees is perfectly aligned with the taste preferences of human high-cuisine.

However, the labor market is shifting. A fun article in Modern Farmer reports that dogs- not content with crime fighting and their lofty status as man's best friend- are beginning to elbow in on truffle work, too. Writer Jake Swearingen explains that the pigs themselves are partly to blame for the shift: They're hard to train, lack stamina, and are a risk to eat the $2000 a pound mushrooms once they find them.

Which is where the ubiquitous dog raises an eager paw. Dogs are easy to train (coat objects in truffle oil and give them treats for finding them), love to run, and (ouch) prefer gnawing on ham bones to gorging on truffles. Their biggest advantage, though, is that they're innocuous. The best truffle hunting grounds are a closely held secret, and as one truffle expert states in the article, “If you have a pig on a leash, everyone knows what you’re doing.”

While this is good news for people who love truffles in their foie gras, it's a dire development for pigs, whose only remaining job may be to be eaten.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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