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Wes: [referring to their prison rations] "Imperial MRRs. Meals Ready to Regurgitate."

Ibitsam: "At least the local rodents seem uninterested in them."

Wes: "Right. So we have no bait for fresh meat."
"In the Empire's Service, X Wing Series Comics.

This trope usually occurs in a prison or school/camp cafeteria. The food that a character is served is so terrible that even the rampant vermin (or some other animal widely considered undesirable and consuming refuse) refuse to eat it. Maybe because it's an Indestructible Edible, maybe because it's just that bad-tasting. This is usually used to demonstrate how terrible the food is.

Compare Even Beggars Won't Choose It for the non-food variant, as well as Even Evil Has Standards and Even the Dog Is Ashamed. For other dystopia-like looks at food, see Future Food Is Artificial.

Examples of Even the Rats Won't Touch It include:


Comic Books

  • V for Vendetta: Evey is served some kind of food in prison which a rat looks at and then passes up.
  • In Tintin and the Picaros, Tintin cooks up a meal laced with an experimental drug from Prof. Calculus to a rebel camp to break them of their alcoholism. Said rebels don't trust him, so Tintin feeds the meal to Snowy. Snowy doesn't want to eat it either (not because of the drug but because it contains pimentos), but Tintin forces Snowy to eat it anyhow. The rebels then eat it. Nobody gets sick, and nobody can hold their liquor afterwards. Mission successful.
  • An arc in the X Wing Series comics has Wes and Ibitsam captured and imprisoned together. The local rat equivalents won't touch their food, which means they can't use it as bait to catch and eat the rats.
  • The 'Limited Edition Haulin' Ass And Ammo "Meals Ready To Eat" Snack Pouches' from Knights of the Dinner Table:

 Weird Pete: I bought half a pallet of that crap two years ago... Didn't sell a single pack.. Squirrely wouldn't even touch 'em.

  • In the Looney Tunes comic book story "Cooking Made Uneasy", Honey Bunny gets offended and storms off when she finds out that Bugs doesn't like her cooking:

 Bugs: Just hear me out! Face it, Honey Bun--you are not one of the world's great cooks!

Honey: I am so a good cook!

Bugs: Oh, come on! The mice in your house have to send out for cheese sandwiches!


Film

  • In The Road to Wellville, a group of somewhat shady businessmen try to produce a new brand of cornflakes, in competition with the very John Kellogg. Since their... products are anything but tasty, they feed them to some pigs. Who won't eat it either.
  • There's a scene in Blood Sport where the two American agents sent to bring Frank back to the US are eating in a Hong Kong restaurant, exclaiming about how good the food is. Later in the scene, however, their liaison from Hong Kong refuses to eat at that restaurant, and when they go to leave they throw some meat to a stray dog that has been watching them. The dog reacts by just whimpering and turning away.
  • In The Triplets of Belleville, Madame Souza warily regards the frog stew the eponymous triplets have made, and even Bruno, the obese dog shown so far to eat anything, sniffs it and then backs away. This is mostly due, however, to the fact that one of the frogs in his serving is still alive and starts to kick.
  • In the Blue Collar Comedy Tour stand-up comedy movie, comedian Ron White says his wife was such a bad cook that he tried to feed it to his dog and it started licking its butt. His wife asks "What's he doing?" and he responded, "It looks like he's trying to get the taste out of his mouth!"
  • In Ratatouille, Linguini's attempt at cooking soup is so bad, a rat catches a whiff of it and chokes. Granted, Rémy is a rat with a highly refined sense of smell, but rats don't have a gag reflex.


Literature

  • In the Discworld novel Making Money, C.M.O.T. Dibbler asks Mr. Lipwig for a business loan, and brings along samples of the food he sells from his cart. Lipwig's dog Mr. Fusspot is offered a sausage, which he promptly tries to bury under the carpet. When Mr. Bent points this out, Lipwig retorts that Dibbler's ability to get people to eat what dogs won't is a testament to his business skill.
    • And in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, rats often remind one another that the 'green wobbly bit' is something to be avoided when eating one another.
    • In The Truth, the same Dibbler encounters two customers who want a truly awful sausage inna bun, and he shifts an internal gear into reverse as he describes their contents, including the tidbit that you won't find any rat in them, because rats won't go near the place they are made (with the tasteful detail that when a man's thumb got cut off they didn't even stop the grinder - one hopes he was exaggerating).
      • Fridge Logic: what's the staple diet of dwarfs in Ankh-Morpork. Of course there's no rat in it.
    • And then, of course, there's Dwarf Bread, a parody of Lembas Bread: The main point of packing it down as rations is so you know that, as long as you have Dwarf Bread to look forward to, almost everything else becomes a better alternative for food. Including roots, berries, moss, small rocks, or your own legs. Dwarfs probably wish it could attract rats, rats being a staple of their diet, but the best way to catch rats with Dwarf Bread probably involves throwing it at them.
  • The hero of Glen Cook's Garrett P.I. series often justifies his distaste for Morley Dotes' vegetarian restaurant menu with the argument that pigs, which will otherwise eat just about anything, won't touch green peppers or cattail hearts.
  • According to The Berenstain Bears Spend Too Much Vacation, the berries the Bear family ate at the run-down campground were so sour "that even the birds puckered!"


Live Action TV

  • On Friends, Joey made a revolting sandwich. He tosses some outside the car to distract a dog. Rachel points out that the dog licks himself; yet refuses to eat the sandwich.
  • Played with on Star Trek: The Next Generation. A running joke is that there are certain foods so revolting no being will ever eat them. Except Worf who thinks it's delicious.
  • Jerry Dean of American Hoggers had been trying to make some wild hog sausage. He tried some and then tried to feed it to one of his hunting dogs. The dog tasted it and ran off.


Newspaper Comics

  • In a Zits strip, Pierce tosses a piece of junk food he's eating to a pigeon. The pigeon eats it and then throws up. Cue Jeremey commenting "And that's an animal that lives on garbage" and Pierce peering into the packet and musing that maybe he needs to re-examine his dietary habits.
  • This comic strip by Keith Reynolds.


Urban Legends

  • An urban legend states that flies won't touch margarine because it's "one molecule away from plastic." (Also a case of Artistic License Chemistry -- chemical structure is almost as important to a compound's physical properties as its composition. Two molecules might contain exactly the same atoms but be arranged in a different way and consequently have wildly different behavior (melting/boiling point, density, toxicity...). The statement that "margarine is (chemically similar to) plastic" is effectively meaningless.)
    • Cracked.com once pointed out that the logic behind this claim is like saying that a farm is a bad thing because it's one letter away from a fart.


Video Games

  • At one point shortly after Koromaru (the dog) joins in Persona 3, there's a small moment in the dorm lounge (it can be seen around 8/15 to 8/24) where Yukari, having screwed up making her dinner, tries to feed the leftovers to him. Koromaru wants nothing to do with them. Junpei, of course, thinks it's hilarious.

 Junpei: AHHAHAHAHAHAHA! That's awesome! He won't eat it!


Web Comics

  • Freefall variation: A cockroach does eat from Sam's plate in The Golden Trough, but dies immediately afterwards.


Western Animation

  • In an episode of Arthur, the titular character and his little sister D.W. complain to themselves about their grandma's cooking. D.W. attempts to give some olive-loaf to Pal, their dog. He refuses it and D.W. responds with "That dog's not as dumb as he looks."
    • In Half-Baked Sale, the duo was finally forced to explain to their grandma, Thora, about her cooking when their school’s janitor got hurt. Rather than getting upset, Thora was pleased their feelings being known since she understood had to take a lot of bravery to come to the conclusion, only for Arthur and DW to find one fan… Buster.
  • In an episode of Ozzy and Drix, Hector did a science project on what cafeteria food his dog wouldn't touch. Turned out to be 'all of it'.
  • In a similar, albeit non-animal related example, The Simpsons episode with the sugar ban saw the police burning every bit of candy in Springfield. When they throw the Butterfingers bars into the fire, they get thrown right back out.

 Chief Wiggum: Even the fire won't take them.

    • Which lost them the rather lucrative Butterfinger advertising contract.
  • In one episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo makes way too many cookies to the point where they're getting nasty. A man drops one of the cookies on the ground. A dog is then shown trying to sniff it, but gets disgusted by it.
  • In one episode of Garfield and Friends, Garfield combats a rodent infestation by serving them Jon's latest experimental dish. They eat a few bites before deciding that it's too awful for them and leave.

 "I know you cats were sneaky, but I didn't think you'd stoop to rat poison!"

    • Additionally, in several episodes, people who have HORRIBLE cooking are demonstrated how horrible their cooking is by having even Garfield refuse to eat them. An example being Papa Plastique's pizza, which was so inedible as to seem to be made of plastic.
  • In Ren and Stimpy: "Ren's Toothache", Ren's halitosis becomes so foul that even the Tooth Beaver and the flies can't stand it.
  • In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, it is shown that Plankton's last customer was a rat who died afer eating his food.
  • In an episode of Rugrats, Susie's home-made Reptar-bar snacks are so bad even Spike ran away after smelling one.
  • In one cartoon, Pepe Le Pew finally realized he smells bad when a sewer rat climbs out of a manhole, takes a sniff, and keels over in his wake.

Real Life

  • Although rats are omnivorous and can consume nearly anything humans do, they dislike the taste of apples and won't eat them unless they're exceptionally hungry.
  • An old schoolyard joke goes that the food in the cafeteria is so bad, the flies needed medical attention.
  • Some sugar substitutes aren't tasty for insects. Consequently, vermin can ignore "sweet" product, which naturally begs for jokes along the line "flies scornfully turns away from X".
  • MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) is the US Military's combat ration, but we know them as as Meals Refused by the Enemy/Ethiopians/Everyone.
    • Complete with laxative chewing gum (If you eat an MRE you'll need it as they don't call them Meals Refusing to Exit for nothing.)
      • The laxative has been removed. MRE's are deliberately low in fiber, and the laxative was provided to compensate. Besides, if you drink enough water, you'll avoid constipation.
      • The laxative was removed because the meals were reformulated. Originally, they were indeed intentionally formulated low on fiber to reduce the frequency of the latrine calls in the field. Unfortunately, the recipes were so effective they caused acute constipation instead. This, and the fact that MREs, which were originally intended to be issued only to the frontline troops, found its use wherever it was too difficult to set up a proper field kitchen, have lead to them being reformulated to become more palatable and less constipating. This removed the need for the laxative gum that was added as a stop-gap measure.
      • They also now include high-fiber crackers or bread to help keep the war moving.
    • "Three Lies for the Price of One": it's not a Meal, it's not Ready, and you can't Eat it.
      • Vegetable omelette. The most universally reviled MRE of all times.
      • MREs gained some additional notoriety after Hurricane Katrina. The military shipped in tens of thousands of the meals to help feed people who had been forced from their homes as a result of the storm and the flooding. The verdict? While they're not very good, they were far better than starving. The recipes were reformulated (again) after that to make them more palatable as a result of the publicity.
    • Before the MRE, the two field meals available were the C-ration and the K-ration. There was a reason their names were abbreviated as "C-rats" and "K-rats".
  • Army food in general has this reputation even though it's no longer true. Even at training Forts, where the vast majority of eaters have to inhale it so fast they don't get to taste it. It's the same reputation that hospital food has, but an Army hospital has even better food, and so do most VA hospitals.
    • Of note are the large metal containers of prepared meals that are heated up simply by dunking them in boiling water and opening them with a can-opener. The lasagna in particular is very tasty.
    • Supposedly, graffiti reading, "this food must be good; ten million flies can't be wrong!" has been found near military mess halls.
    • Soviet army's "bigos". Unlike the quite yummy Polish cabbage stew that gave it the name, it was the most vile, revolting and barely not-rotting sauerkraut imaginable. Made in a huge quantities with a total disregard for any recipe or technology by the soldiers themselves, it was widely used as a cheap-ass "vitamin supplement" and universally despised by anyone involved, except the intendants -- it was cheap and easy to bulk-up for the stolen other ingredients.
  • The Japanese actually have a nice, succinct little word for this trope as it applies to fish: "nekomatagi", which loosely translated means "even the cat won't touch it".
  • In the German military, it used to be said that the potato bags delivered to the army kitchens were marked with "Nur für Schweinemast oder Bundeswehr", translated: "Only suitable for pig feeding or Federal Army".
  • Many of the above remarks about army food are regularly applied to hospital or airline meals. Frequently justified due to physician-ordered dietary restrictions imposed on the former, or to logistic difficulties when preparing food in the confines of an airliner kitchen.
    • Nowadays food isn't even prepared on board. Catering services simply stuff the galley with premade meals that are, at most, reheated in flight. Even the business or first class passengers get basically a luxury-grade TV meal.
  • In a morbid offshoot of this trope, some diseases (for instance, a historic plague in Athens) are sufficiently unpleasant that vultures won't eat the victims.
    • An old urban legend had it that a starving coyote wouldn't eat a dead Mexican, because the residue of a lifetime of chilli peppers would burn the creature's mouth. (Utter nonsense from a biological point of view, but gullible gringo tourists were regularly fooled by this equivalent of "free-range haggis" or "drop-bears.")
  • Some genetic modifications aim at averting vermin from crops (the example I know of is the potato and the Colorado potato beetle). Some people regard this as an argument against eating said crops themselves.
  • Even cockroaches won't go near a meth lab.
  • In general, any leaf, stem, or root with a strong taste tastes that way to dissuade consumption. For example, very few animals will touch mint. The main reason that humans can stomach mint or most spices is because we usually eat at most one spoonful with our entire meal, as opposed to trying to eat half a kilogram of it all at once. A dash of chili pepper in your dinner is tasty. A whole bowl full of raw habanero is just plain masochistic.
  • Unlike most products made with flour, Passover matzah never spoils (as long as it stays dry) because even mold spores won't eat it.
  • Plastics. Just about anything organic can be consumed by bacteria, fungi, or a combination thereof. Non-degradable plastics are a problem because no microorganisms have gotten around to figuring out how to digest the stuff. One assumes, however, that they might learn after a while.
    • They have. Bacteria have been discovered that can eat nylon, or at least some of the byproducts from its manufacture.
  • During the cold war at least one of the super powers used dead rats to mark dead drops. Animals ate the rats. So they used hot sauce to prevent animals, like cats from eating the dead rats, and it worked.
  • The term “playing opossum” comes from a defense method employed by an opossum. An opossum go into a deep sleep and even emits a foul odor since many predators rather after a live prey because the dead decomposes and could contaminated with diseases. This is way many people have played opossum” in an effort to survive an animal attack.
    • However, this doesn’t work on many scavengers like vultures, who find sees the dead as a meal.
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