PELLETS – NEW FRONTIER OR FRAUD?

Aviculturists are deluged by a confusing array of pelleted foods for their charges. These processed foods offer the advantage of convenience, since they all claim to be “complete diets.” For a bird that refuses to eat fruit or vegetables, pellets are a valuable source of nutrients not found in seed. One cockatoo would only eat white millet. The distraught owner tried in vain to get the bird to eat any other seed, fruit or vegetables. Luckily, the bird quickly developed a taste for pellets, saving it from a one sided diet. Pellets serve as a vehicle to medicate a whole flock; pellets are sold that contain tetracycline.

Pellets have many drawbacks. The claim that pellets are a complete source of nutrition for all parrots is blatantly fraudulent. Not every species of parrot type bird that has been the subject of extensive nutritional research, with the cockatiel as an exception. That the diet for a cockatiel also satisfies the nutritional requirements for all other parrots is hard to believe. Pellet manufacturers also state that their products are extensively tested. It is necessary to feed a diet through three generations in order to call it complete. Surely, very few have fed any these artificial foods to many of the larger parrots through three generations.

I question the advisability of feeding the same food year round. The highly intelligent birds must be bored to madness by such bland diets. Even white rats relish a change from pellets. By watching wild birds, even here in the North East, one sees that birds do not naturally maintain a static diet. The availability of food stuffs from day to day, and from season to season. During nesting, the birds’ protein intake increases dramatically. The coming of winter increases the consumption of fats and starches.

Many aviculturists feed pellets to increase the protein in their birds’ diet. This effort might very well be in vain. There are two problems with the protein in pellets: the quality of protein and the source of protein. The protein for most pellets, and for most dog and cat foods, is derived from meat by-products. Meat by-products are what is left on a carcass after all items considered fit for human consumption are removed. These remains include the hide, hair, hooves, sinews, and feathers. Such refuse is made up of garbage protein, protein that is indigestible. Thus most of the seemingly high protein of man-made foods is an illusion.

The meat that is used in animal foods is, most often, not USDA inspected. The manufacturers of animal feed use what they call “the four D’s: the dead, diseased, dying, and deformed. This garbage of the meat processing industry is actually condemned for human consumption. The purveyors of artificial animal feed reason that the high temperatures and pressures used to process this foul matter somehow purifies it. I would think that the extremes of temperature would only further lower the digestibility of the final product. And there’s also the risk of Melamine adulteration.

Some high quality pellets might serve as a replacement for seed in the avian menus. Birds given such pellets would still require fruits, vegetables, and sprouts in order to maintain a balanced diet.

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