About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bacon fat bad for birds' health

I was reading about suet in one of your articles and it said birds like bacon but it's not good for them with the added stuff in it.  I bought a box of uncured ends and pieces that has no nitrates or nitrites (except what is naturally in the added sea salt and celery powder).  The ingredients are pork, water, sea salt, turbinado sugar, black strap molasses, apple extract, and celery powder.

We started buying uncured, nitrate/trite free bacon for ourselves to be healthier.  It's been great but this box of ends and pieces was a bust.  It's luck of the draw...almost half of it was fat this time.  So instead of tossing it I though of the birds.  We usually feed suet in the winter and thought it might be fun to make our own since I  have all this fat.  Do you think this type of fat would be ok for them? - Thanks, Juliette

Every backyard birder wants to offer their feathered friends a healthy, nutritious buffet, and the key to attracting more birds is to use a variety of different foods high in protein and fat. Wild Birds Unlimited’s Suet is made with only the highest quality processed beef kidney fat. It is the most concentrated source of energy you can offer wild birds.

In spring, suet meets the increased energy demands of nesting birds. In the summer months, it provides a good substitute for insect-eating birds, especially in years when insects are not very plentiful. In fall, suet helps wild birds store fat to prepare for migration. And of course, in winter, suet replenishes depleted stores of energy and nutrients, to help birds survive the long, cold months.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, most bacon always has detectable amounts of nitrosamines, carcinogenic compounds formed from some of the preservatives used in bacon. In particular, the very high cooking temperatures used to fry bacon are conducive to nitrosamine formation. So despite the fact that birds love it, bacon and bacon fat pose too much of a risk to the long-term health of birds to warrant using it.

Turbinado sugar and black strap molasses also contain more iron and other minerals than a bird’s natural diet requires. The excess could result in a buildup in their organs. 

And foods high in salt are not good birds. While birds can process small amounts of salt without difficulty, large quantities are dangerous. Avoid offering birds any foods high in salt, such as salty meats, chips or other animal foods that include salt for nutritional value.

Having said that, a bird’s diet is varied and though I wouldn’t offer them the box of uncured ends, I don’t think a little would harm them.
Related Articles:
- What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
- Can I make my own suet? http://bit.ly/rsc1JT
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods: http://bit.ly/ob0NIq 
- Can I feed suet year-round? http://bit.ly/I4Ow8l