Avocado meal may be a novel fiber source for dogs

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

When avocados were first recognized as a nutrient-dense superfood for humans, consumption skyrocketed. Today, consumers buy and eat the fresh fruit (hello, avocado toast), purchase pre-packaged guacamole, cook with avocado oil, and more.

The trend means there are now more avocado-derived products in the supply chain than ever. In a study published in the Journal of Animal Science, University of Illinois researchers looked at the possibility of using avocado meal—the ground, dried, and defatted pulp, seed, and skin left over after avocado oil processing—as a fiber source in dry dog food.

Wait, aren’t avocados toxic to dogs?

A simple Google search turns up scads of sources warning against the potentially harmful effects of avocados for pets, placing blame on a compound called persin in the fruit. But Maria Cattai de Godoy, who led the project, says the claims about avocado toxicity are overblown. As for avocado meal, Godoy couldn’t find detectable levels of persin in the product. And best of all? Avocado meal is also palatable and a functional fiber source in canine nutrition.

“Being from Brazil, avocados grow in our backyards. They fall on the ground, and if dogs get hold of them, they eat them. Just like they do with mangoes, bananas, or any other fruits that grow natively in our country. I’d never heard of a dog dying from eating an avocado, so I was really curious why they were considered toxic here,” says Cattai de Godoy, associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I.

“When you look at the literature for avocado toxicity, all that exists are a few case studies. Dogs reported to have a fondness for avocado showed some signs of toxicity, but the case reports couldn’t prove avocados caused those symptoms. There are a lot of uncontrolled factors in these cases.”

When she looked into it, Cattai de Godoy couldn’t find direct evidence showing cause and effect of persin toxicity in dogs. Few studies detailed where persin was most concentrated in the avocado plants and fruits, and not a single study explored whether it was found in avocado meal.

It was time for some answers.

Cattai de Godoy teamed up with David Sarlah, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at U of I. They were able to look more closely at the chemical structure of persin, and realized why they couldn’t find it in the dried, processed meal.

“Persin is structurally similar to a polyunsaturated fatty acid, meaning there are a lot of double bonds,” Cattai de Godoy says. “They’re not very stable; heat and light can make them break down. Processing is very likely breaking down persin, which is probably why we cannot see it in the meal.

“In fact, the concentration was so small in the avocado meal that it was out of our standard curve linear range, meaning it was below detection level. We observed, however, detectable amounts of persin in the raw fruit, including the peel, pulp, and pit.”

After they determined persin was undetectable in avocado meal, the researchers fed it to beagles as one of three fiber sources in their diets: avocado meal, or industry standards beet pulp or cellulose. They watched the animals closely for any signs of or distress, but found none during the two-week feeding trials.

Cellulose is an insoluble fiber used to create fecal bulk. Beet pulp, which Cattai de Godoy refers to as the gold-standard fiber in pet foods, is a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber that helps feed good gut bacteria while promoting fecal bulk.

As a fiber source, avocado meal fell right in between and beet pulp, depending on the metrics the researchers studied. For example, energy intake was similar for all three diets, and avocado meal tied with other fiber sources for digestibility of fat and organic matter. Dogs who ate the avocado meal diet had similar fiber digestibility and fecal butyrate concentration, an energy source for microbial cells in the gut, to dogs who ate the beet pulp diet.

“High fiber diets are not always palatable for pets, but that is not what we saw. The dogs consumed enough food to meet or exceed their energy requirements. The high inclusion of avocado meal [about 19%] was acceptable to them,” Cattai de Godoy says.

The researchers note they only tested one source of avocado meal. Persin levels vary across avocado cultivars and processing practices haven’t been standardized across the industry, so it will be important to test for persin in each source of avocado meal. But Cattai de Godoy thinks this first study shows the potential of avocado meal for dogs.

“If you have a tool nobody has looked at and it’s economical and highly abundant, why not use it? From what we can tell, it seems to be a safe ingredient. We don’t see a signal for persin in avocado meal, and there is not really a robust literature pointing to persin as a true toxin for or cats” she says. “I certainly think there’s still work to be done in order to say there are no concerns, especially if we were giving the fresh fruit. But according to our study, I think avocado meal is a safe bet and can be used effectively as a sole source of dietary fiber or in fiber blends.”

More information:
Amanda N Dainton et al, Nutritional and physico-chemical implications of avocado meal as a novel dietary fiber source in an extruded canine diet, Journal of Animal Science (2022). DOI: 10.1093/jas/skac026

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Manufacturing isn’t the only way poor countries can develop

While it is important to move workers out of agriculture, there is nothing special about moving them into manufacturing, according to a new paper by Richard Rogerson of Princeton SPIA. Credit: Egan Jimenez, Princeton University

Industrialization is considered the main way poor countries become developed. To successfully develop—or generate more wealth and output—many believe poor countries must shift employment away from agriculture and into manufacturing.

History proves this to be generally true: During the Industrial Revolution, the United States and other developed countries moved away from agriculture and into manufacturing, leading to increases in the production of goods and services, capital investments, and even population growth.

A great deal of economic research finds that differences in labor productivity are key to explaining the large differences in living standards across rich and . Shifting labor to manufacturing is seen by many economists as an important source of overall growth in labor productivity. It also allows poorer countries to shrink the labor productivity gaps between themselves and .

However, a new working paper by Richard Rogerson, Charles and Marie Robertson Professor of Public and International Affairs, and others challenges the relevance of this popular notion for today’s .

After constructing a dataset of comparable labor productivity levels for agriculture and manufacturing, they find that productivity gaps between rich and poor countries in manufacturing are actually larger than overall productivity gaps.

They looked at 64 mostly poor countries over a period from 1990 to 2018.


While it is important to move workers out of agriculture, there is nothing special about moving them into manufacturing. Even though the researchers find some productivity gains in moving labor from agriculture to manufacturing, the gains could be larger if labor moved into another sector, like trade, transport, and .

Service-led development, for example, is becoming increasingly more popular, leading to gains in both productivity and large-scale job creation among low-skilled workers. Successful examples are seen in like Costa Rica and the Philippines, where professional and technical services account for more than half of all services exports, according to a report by the World Bank.

“Our findings are relevant for poor countries like India that are bypassing industrialization and instead undergoing what might be called service-led development. These countries are not necessarily doomed to experience disappointing productivity growth, as others might believe,” Rogerson said.

The full working paper, “New Evidence on Sectoral Labor Productivity: Implications for Industrialization and Development,” was made available as a working paper in March 2022 by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). This paper was not peer-reviewed or subject to the review by the NBER Board of Directors that accompanies official NBER publications.

More information:
The working paper is available as a PDF here.

Provided by
Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

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Money at the heart of international efforts to save nature

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Observers say more new funding is needed, as well as the redirection of the money spent on activities like some agriculture that are harmful to nature.

Can humanity curb spending that harms the world’s biodiversity and instead focus funding on protecting it?

That question is at the heart of international negotiations in Geneva, which will set the stage for a crucial United Nations COP 15 biodiversity summit in China later this year.

Almost 200 countries are due to adopt a global framework this year to safeguard nature by mid-century from the destruction wrought by humanity, with a key milestone of 30 percent protected by 2030.

These ambitions will only be met with a new approach to biodiversity and a rethink of the huge sums spent on subsidies harmful to nature, according to observers.

Subsidies for things like , agriculture and fishing can often result in and encourage unsustainable levels of production and consumption, experts say.

The exact figure that the world spends on these harmful subsidies is debated, although the group Business for Nature estimates that it could be as much as $1.8 trillion every year, or two percent of global gross domestic product.

Financing in general is among the more challenging issues up for debate at the Geneva meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which runs until Tuesday.

“Resource mobilisation at this meeting has become a thorny issue,” said Ghanaian academic Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, who has played a key role in international efforts to protect biodiversity.

“It is a balancing act. At the global level money has continuously been a problem.”

‘Not peanuts’

The draft text contains the aim “to redirect, reallocate, reform or eliminate harmful incentives”, reducing them by at least 500 billion dollars per year.

It also includes a goal of increasing total finance from all sources to at least $200 billion a year by 2030 and increasing international money that goes to by at least $10 billion per year.

Last year, a study by groups including The Nature Conservancy and the Paulson Institute estimated that in 2019, the world spent between $124 and $143 billion per year on activities that benefit nature.

But they said the amount needed by 2030 should be up to $967 billion per year, which could include refocussing funding for harmful subsidies.

Vinod Mathur, president of the National Biodiversity Authority of India, is calling for $100 billion every year in additional funding.

“There has to be substantial funding, not just peanuts. It should be new funding, or additional funding and it should be timely,” he told AFP.

Without it, developing countries say ambitious conservation targets will be impossible to achieve, a real concern given the world has missed virtually all of its biodiversity targets so far.

Rich countries “recognize that there are additional efforts to be made”, according to one representative, although they took issue with the developing countries’ estimates of funding needed.

Observers expect the to play an increasingly important role.

Private sector role

Last year, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Mike Bloomberg joined other philanthropists in pledging $5 billion by 2030 for biodiversity restoration and conservation.

The Business for Nature coalition has the support of more than a thousand companies, which like the conservation groups, are asking for an ambitious text.

“Companies need the political certainty to urgently invest, innovate, shift their ,” said Business for Nature Director Eva Zabey, adding that many firms are prepared to be held accountable for their impact.

As for subsidies, governments often defend them as helping the poor, said Ronald Steenblik, author of the Business for Nature study.

But he said “when you do the analysis you find that actually the major beneficiaries are very often the most wealthy”.

Some 80 percent of fishing subsidies, for example, go to industrial fishing and not to small-scale fishermen.

But reforms can be challenging because entire sectors of activity depend on them.

As is often the case in international negotiations, the subject will likely only be resolved in the home stretch, at COP15 in China.

© 2022 AFP

Money at the heart of international efforts to save nature (2022, March 27)
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Rescued Victorian rainfall data smashes former records

Observations being taken at rain gauges in Seathwaite in the Lake District in 1895. Credit: Met Office

Record-breaking Victorian weather has been revealed after millions of archived rainfall records dating back nearly 200 years were rescued by thousands of volunteers during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

The Rainfall Rescue project was launched by the University of Reading in March 2020 and offered members of the public a way of distracting themselves from the pandemic by digitally transcribing 130 years’ worth of handwritten rainfall observations from across the UK and Ireland.

Some 16,000 volunteers responded to the challenge, digitising 5.2 million observations in just 16 days. Ahead of the two-year anniversary of the project launch, on Saturday 26 March, these records have now been made publicly available in the official Met Office national record, extending it back 26 years to 1836.

The volunteers’ efforts have revealed some new records for extreme dry and wet months across the UK, as well as providing more context around recent changes in rainfall due to human-caused .

Professor Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading and Rainfall Rescue project lead, said: “I am still blown away by the response this project got from the public. Transcribing the records required around 100 million keystrokes, yet what I thought would take several months was completed in a matter of days.

“Thanks to the hard work of the volunteers, we now have detailed accounts of the amount of rain that fell, back to 1836, as seen through the eyes of other dedicated volunteers from several generations ago. To put that in context, 1836 was the year Charles Darwin returned to the UK on the Beagle with Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy, and a year before Queen Victoria took to the throne.

“As well as being a fascinating glimpse into the past, the new data allows a longer and more detailed picture of variations in monthly rainfall, which will aid new scientific research two centuries on. It increases our understanding of weather extremes and flood risk across the UK and Ireland, and helps us better understand the long-term trends towards the dramatic changes we’re seeing today.”

Dr. Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre, said: “The UK rainfall record is notoriously variable, with extremes of weather presenting us with drought and flood. The more we can shine a light into the earlier chapters and extremes within the rainfall record, the better we are able to understand the risks presented to us by climate change and future extreme weather events.”

Paper record showing handwritten rainfall observations signed by Lady Bayning of Honingham Hall between 1880 and 1889. Credit: Met Office

Notable details uncovered by Rainfall Rescue volunteers include:

  • The driest year on record is now 1855 (786.5mm), thanks to the new data.
  • For many regions and England as a whole, the driest May on record was May 2020 (for England 9.6mm), when some volunteers were still helping confirm the Rainfall Rescue transcriptions. In doing so they shifted those records back to May 1844 (for England 8.3mm).
  • November/December 1852 were confirmed as exceptionally wet months—December 1852 now being the third wettest month on record in Cumbria (364.9mm) and November 1852 being the wettest month on record for large parts of southern England. Floods are known to have occurred in a number of locations at this time, and are known as the Duke of Wellington Floods as they started around the time of his state funeral in London.
  • Observations were made by people from a range of backgrounds—such as “Lady Bayning,” who recorded rainfall in Norfolk between 1835-1887, even taking her rainfall gauge to London for the social season.
  • A vast number of locations with rain gauges across the country were included, including one next door to Beatrix Potter’s Hilltop Farm in the Lake District, where she wrote many of her most famous books.

Pre-digital age

Paper records studied by Rainfall Rescue volunteers contained observations between 1677 and 1960, based on rain gauges located in almost every town and village across England and Wales.

Rainfall has been monitored systematically for the whole UK since the 1860s when George Symons established the British Rainfall Organisation to coordinate voluntary rainfall measuring activities, which later became a branch of the Met Office. However, the majority of the observations made in the pre-digital age, before 1960, have not previously been transcribed from the original paper records.

Each of the 65,000 pieces of paper held in the Met Office National Meteorological Archive showed monthly rainfall totals across a 10-year period and had been scanned during 2019. Many of the recordings were written in ornate handwriting, requiring human eyes to transcribe it.

The Met Office’s official UK rainfall series previously went back to 1862. Thanks to the Rainfall Rescue project, there is now around six times the previous amount of observational data for the years before 1960. The number of rain gauges contributing data to the national record for the year 1862 has increased from 19 to more than 700.

These earlier, detailed records could also help increase knowledge of the impact of how weather is affected by climate change not caused by humans.

Line graph showing how the number of rain gauges contributing data to the Met Office’s national rain series has dramatically increased pre-1960 thanks to the Rainfall Rescue volunteers. Credit: Ed Hawkins / University of Reading

Redefining archives

After all the data had been transcribed, eight dedicated volunteers helped arrange the data into chronological sequences for each location. These eight volunteers are named as co-authors in a paper published today (Friday 25 March) in Geoscience Data Journal.

Some 3.3 million of the newly-transcribed observations have been processed by the Met Office and added to the publicly available national rainfall statistics on its website.

Catherine Ross, Met Office archivist, said: “This project has broken the definition of an archive. In its lifecycle a document moves from being a , in everyday use, to an archive where it is kept as part of a memory—in our case the National Memory of the Weather.

“However, this project’s 66,000 formerly inanimate sheets of numbers have been given a new life by placing data that can be interrogated and compared into the hands of scientists at the Met Office and around the world.”

The volunteers who took part in the project expressed their admiration and thanks to the observers who creating the original detailed , and to the British Rainfall Organisation for coordinating their work.

Jacqui Huntley, one of the eight Rainfall Rescue based near Stranraer in Scotland who worked across the whole project, said: “I got involved because I’m British and therefore a fanatic about the weather, especially rain. And it rains a lot where I live in Scotland. The data are obviously valuable to scientists, but I have also loved learning about the observers who were so dedicated in measuring the weather day after day. It has been fun, and a true team effort, from start to finish.”

More information:
Ed Hawkins et al, Millions of historical monthly rainfall observations taken in the UK and Ireland rescued by citizen scientists, Geoscience Data Journal (2022). DOI: 10.1002/gdj3.157

A map showing the locations of all the rainfall gauges that contributed data to the Rainfall Rescue project can be found at public.flourish.studio/visualisation/5534063

The Rainfall Rescue project was carried out on Zooniverse.

Rescued Victorian rainfall data smashes former records (2022, March 27)
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No one knows if regulation makes the Netherlands chemical industry safer

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The government spends millions regulating companies that work with large quantities of hazardous substances. But we don’t know whether this is making the industry safer. The number of violations and incidents remains constant. This is the conclusion of external Ph.D. candidate Rob in ‘t Veld in his dissertation. He will defend his Ph.D. on 30 March.

Around 400 companies in the Netherlands work with such large quantities of hazardous substances that they could cause a major accident. They must follow the from the Major Accident (Risks) Decree (Brzo) to protect their , and the environment as much as possible. Reports from show that each year an average of 60 percent of Brzo companies are found to be in violation of laws and regulations. “And the figures are not improving,” says In ‘t Veld.

Same thing year in year out

In ‘t Veld analyzed reports from regulators (from 2010 to 2021) and interviewed their employees. His most striking conclusion is that nobody knows whether the regulation actually yields results. “Each year people dutifully report on how many inspections have been carried out, how many violations there have been and how often enforcement has taken place. The problem is that violations are discovered again a year later and the year after that too. It’s the same thing year in year out. Research also shows that the causes have been the same for years. I predict that the regulators can carry on like this for another 20 years and nothing will have changed.”

Disrupt society

In ‘t Veld thinks that government should look more closely at what is being achieved with policy, and enforcement. This will give it much more insight into what measures will help make the industry safer. And that is important, he emphasizes. “There aren’t major incidents at Brzo companies all that often, but when something does go wrong it can disrupt society.”

No one knows if regulation makes the Netherlands chemical industry safer (2022, March 25)
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Hotels need to understand clients’ level of concern regarding COVID-19

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

The perception of physical and emotional risk caused by COVID-19 among hotel clients influences their decision-making when it comes to deciding whether to stay in this type of establishment. Hence, hotel firms that base the design of their marketing and communication campaigns on this variable will find it helps make their offer appealing.

This is demonstrated by a study led by Francisco Peco-Torres of the Department of Marketing and Market Research at the University of Granada, together with Ana Isabel Polo-Peña and Professor Dolores María Frías-Jamilena.

The study also seeks to determine how resilience—the individual’s ability to readily recover from and adapt to contexts characterized by uncertainty—can help adjust to the ‘new normal’ caused by COVID-19 in the hotel sector.

A quantitative empirical study was conducted among Spanish hotel clients. The analysis showed that, when the client perceives physical and emotional risk attached to staying at a hotel due to COVID-19, this reduces their intention to resume their consumption of hotel accommodation in the wake of the pandemic while the virus is still present in the population. Physical risk is the degree to which the consumer perceives that it is possible to contract the virus at a hotel, while emotional risk is the concern that, due to the situation caused by the pandemic, the hotel experience will not prove satisfactory and may cause extreme mental overwhelm. In this scenario, according to Peco Torres, “consumer resilience helps reduce perceived physical and emotional risk.”

The results show that the more resilient the consumer, the better he or she will adapt to the new situation and the less risk they will perceive. In turn, the less risk they perceive, the greater their intention to return to staying in hotels again, even with COVID-19 still present.

Adapting hotel marketing and communications

The research has highlighted the role of resilience in consumer decision-making, showing that hotel firms must take this individual capacity into account when designing their marketing and plans. “One way of incorporating consumer resilience into these plans would be to segment consumers based on their degree of resilience, distinguishing between two types of consumers,” explains Francisco Peco.

On the one hand, less resilient individuals will perceive a higher degree of risk and present a low intention to resume their consumption of hotel accommodation. According to this study, firms wanting to target this segment in their communications should emphasize the anti-COVID-19 safety measures being taken by the hotel, in order to demonstrate that protecting their clients is their top priority. It would also be useful to emphasize the emotional cost of unnecessarily missing out on safe tourism experiences.

On the other hand, consumers with more personal will perceive hotels to present a lower degree of risk and will show a higher level of intention to return to staying in them. Communication aimed at this segment should adopt a more commercial approach that motivates consumers to return to enjoying touristic experiences. It would also be appropriate to take a social approach to communications targeted at this profile of consumer, to convey how important their custom and their trust are for the survival of the sector and all the employment it generates.

The research was published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management.

More information:
Francisco Peco-Torres et al, The effect of COVID-19 on tourists’ intention to resume hotel consumption: The role of resilience, International Journal of Hospitality Management (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhm.2021.103075

Hotels need to understand clients’ level of concern regarding COVID-19 (2022, March 25)
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