2012.12.12 Stingray shoes and Chia Pets- It's Christmas 2012

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

It’s once again time to go Christmas shopping and this might finally be the year to pick up a Chia Pet. No, not because the Chia Mitt Romney looks so poorly groomed with his big, green, seedy Afro, but because I suspect this may be the last year for the goofy product. If you’ve passed on the original generic Chia man for years, or later versions like Shrek, Homer Simpson and even President Obama, it might be time to grab one of this year’s presidential candidates or a Hello Kitty Chia before they sell out.

It seems that the Chia seed, long part of the joke that is the Chia Pet and the ingredient that grows that gorgeous green “hair,” is fast becoming a “must have” nutritional item. The seed contains omega-3 fatty acids just like fish, in addition to protein, fiber and antioxidants.

According to the New York Times, “Whole and ground chia seeds are being added to fruit drinks, snack foods and cereals and sold on their own to be baked into cookies and sprinkled on yogurt.” The Dole company has introduced Dole’s Chia and Fruit Clusters. 

Another company has introduced Mamma Chia Fruit Juices, which have chia seeds suspended in them. When the founder of the fruit juice company met with representatives of the Whole Foods chain, hoping to get her product a trial in a few stores, the buyer insisted on putting the product in every store.

Joseph Enterprises, the company responsible for the Chia Pet, has now added chia seeds and milled chia to its product line under a name that will sound somewhat familiar to anyone who has ever seen a Chia Pet commercial. The new item is called “Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Omega.” In addition, the company is making chia protein bars which can be found in many of the same drugstores that sell the Chia Pet.

There is a down side to all this chia good news, though. The crop is grown only in Bolivia and Mexico and bad weather in both countries has reduced production. Combined with growing demand, the  future supply of seeds could be in jeopardy, not to mention the future supply of Chia Pets.

If supplies get really tight, I can’t see Joseph Enterprises using its seeds on the seasonal Chia Pet instead of items they could sell all year. But don’t despair. If you want a really expensive and even dumber gift, how about a pair of shoes made out of stingray leather, genetically grown to match your own design?

Introduced this year by Rayfish Footwear, the shoes are made from actual stingray leather. Customers may go online and use a design tool to create their own unique pattern. 

Following a process used in 2011 when Rayfish “successfully engineered our first fully bio-customized stingray,” the company will then use DNA on file in its facility in Thailand to “identify the genes responsible for color and pattern and implant the “supergene” cluster into fetal rays before they are born. As the ray grows and matures, it expresses the predetermined patterns on its skin.”

Two stingrays are created in this process, one for each shoe. Once they have reach sufficient size, they sacrifice their lives for the sake of someone willing to pay $1,800 for a pair of personalized shoes. No word on whether you’ll be bothered by hungry cats.

As the website puts it. “This price includes bio-customization of a pair of stingrays, growing your shoes to maturity, and shipping them to any address on the planet.” There’s no mention of a decent burial for the remains of the stingrays. I get the distinct impression that PETA probably doesn’t have any chapters in Thailand. That’s probably why the shoes are made there in the first place—cheap labor and no stingray lobbyists. 

I had to laugh at the statement on Rayfish’s website that “Rayfish Footwear harnesses the beauty and variety of nature to create the world’s first truly custom sneakers.” They forgot to add that once those beautiful stingrays grow large enough, Rayfish will happily slaughter them for a huge profit.

The worst part may be that the shoes themselves, or at least the samples they show online, are ugly. I can’t imagine why anyone would want a pair, especially when you consider the cost, both in money and marine life. It’s enough to make me want to buy a Chia Obama.

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