Feeding fresh food to your beloved parrot is a great idea! I often encourage people to feed fresh food to their captive, companion exotic birds. Fresh food is exactly what birds would eat if they were living in the wild!
Let’s face it though folks, feeding fresh on full time basis is not practical for most of us. The majority of us work full time jobs and we are not home to change out the food within the 2 hour time frame the FDA (Federal Department of Agriculture) strongly encourages. The FDA has a long history of testing fresh food for the growth of bacteria fresh food begins to grow when left to sit out unrefrigerated. Overall most fresh food begins to grow bacteria at about the 2 hour mark at normal room temperatures. In fact bacteria can actually double every 20 minutes! (1)
There are many factors contributing to foods remaining fresh or developing bacteria when left out at room temperature. Factors such as temperature, moisture content and the pH level of each, individual food must be considered. Generally speaking, the higher the ambient room temperature, the more moisture content in the food (aw) and the higher the ambient room humidity, and the higher pH of the food all contribute to bacterial growth.
The one, single factor used in determining potential bacterial growth in fresh fruit and vegetables is ambient temperature and length of time a food sits out unrefrigerated. As one example, Listeria monocytogenes begins to grow in about 5 hours at 86 degrees F and 10 hours at 77 degrees F. (This would give an average of 81.5 degrees F in about 7.5 hours) The average temperature most bacteria require for continued growth is only 46.6 degrees F. Given that bacteria can potentially double every 20 minutes this information calls us to be very careful in leaving fresh fruit and vegetables out longer than the suggested 2 hour maximum time limit.
(The FDA suggests keeping our refrigerators at 40 degrees F.) (2)
Fresh fruits and vegetables on general contain a moisture content (aw) of 0.99 – 1.00. The moisture requirement for bacterial growth of most of the common bacteria such as Campylobacter spp., Clostridium botulinum, Shigella spp., Yersinia enterocolitica, Vibrio vulnificus, Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp., Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium perfringens, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus is only (aw) 0.88 – .0.98 with an optimum (aw) of 0.98 – 0.99. Clearly we can see that fresh fruit and vegetables contain the optimum moisture content for most bacteria to rampantly grow. (3)
Many fruits have a naturally low pH with the exception of melons whose pH seem to be slightly higher, but many botanically classified vegetables as well as veggie-like fruits also seem to have a higher pH. Generally speaking the higher the pH the more rapidly bacteria grows in and on those items. (4) (5) This means that melons and botanically classified vegetables are more apt to grow bacteria than fruit, but that doesn’t put fruit out of harm’s way due to their high moisture content.
We must also keep in mind “cutting, scraping and wounding” of fruits and vegetables during harvesting and processing before those items arrive in our homes. Bacteria can enter those wounded areas finding their way into the cellular structure of the plants. It is virtually impossible to remove any bacteria that has entered the meat of the fruit or plant at those entry points. The produce remaining in its moist form bacteria only begins to grow, especially when the fruit or plant is exposed to room temperatures.
While it may seem like a good idea to feed our birds a totally fresh food diet, first of all we must take into consideration the enormous variety of foods these wild-at-heart creatures consume in their indigenous habitats in order to fulfill their nutritional requirements. We cannot offer such a wide variety in the comforts of our homes, it’s impossible. Feeding only 20 to 30 fresh items, even when we exchange those items over the course of days or weeks isn’t enough diversity to fulfill all of the dietary requirements to keep our beloved birds thriving. Secondly we must consider the fact that most of us are not home all day in which to exchange food out of their bowls, wash the bowls and replace the old food with new food every two hours.
Of course neither is there any commercial dry or semi-moist diet on the market that can satisfy the required overall nutritional profile of any exotic bird. However, here at BirD-elicious! Origins Wild Diet species-specific foods we test for “balance” to ensure our almost semi-moist “morsels” contain nutrition that starts birds off with nutrient ratios field researchers, combined with our own research have discovered to be necessary for exotic birds to thrive in captive environments. We encourage our customers to feed about ¼ fresh foods consisting of tropical fruits, tender greens that contain hemicellulose fiber, additional larvae and grubs, and Terramin® clay to help with the hydrolysis process (breaking down of dietary proteins and other nutrients into singly unit molecules for total absorption), and other individual ingredients depending on each, individual bird’s needs.
Our morsels are not “pellets” by definition. Pellets, by definition are any kibble product that are highly processed using mechanical extrusion or mechanical pressure-formation with or without high heat (at or above 160 degrees). We do not utilize either of these processes and therefore our morsels do not fall under the true definition of “pellets” or “highly processed” commercial bird food. Instead our morsels are classified as “minimally processed” by hand, then gently dehydrated under 115 degrees. Our process allows naturally occurring enzymes to remain active, naturally occurring proteins and fatty acids to remain intact, and naturally occurring vitamins and mineral to remain vital and undestroyed. For these reasons we are legally allowed to classify our foods as “raw.” We term our foods as “morsels.”
When our customers feed fresh foods, we instruct our customers to remove any and all fresh food within the “2-hour guideline” set by FDA to help prevent bacterial growth and infection. We just think it makes for good, common sense and protection for our customers and their beloved companion birds.
I know some who teach avian nutrition instruct to use foods naturally high in antioxidants as natural preservatives. They teach that these foods help protect against bacterial growth on foods that sit out at room temperature all day while people are away at work. I don’t happen to agree with this hypothesis. While some foods do contain anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and are good to use as natural preservatives, they would need to be used each and every day, every time fresh foods are fed. And then each fresh food would need to be literally covered in fairly high amounts with these “antioxidant” foods to be truly effective in preventing bacterial growth. This would throw the nutritional balance way, way off. I personally believe it’s just better to remove fresh foods within the FDA 2-hour guideline rather than use other foods as antioxidants or preservatives on fresh foods hoping to ward off bacteria. Those foods should be highly monitored in an exotic bird’s diet.
For instance, using coconut oil as an anti-fungal / anti-bacterial would cause the pro-inflammatory Omega 6s to climb excessively high in a bird’s overall diet. In addition coconut oil is extremely high in salicylates. So if you happen to have a feather destroyer coconut oil will most likely trigger more feather destruction in that bird. If you use rosemary as an anti-bacterial, again you are adding a high Omega 6 food with very high salicylates to your bird’s diet. You would need to use a lot of this herb to prevent bacterial growth. The same holds true for just about any natural preservative if used on a daily basis over fresh food. In addition most of these natural preservatives are high in the amino acid “arginine.” Arginine is the complete opposite amino acid of “lysine”, the main amino acid most exotic parrots require in abundance in their diet to thrive. In fact most commercial parrot diets have long been overly abundant in arginine far too long throwing the necessary ratio of the amino acid profile off balance for the Psittacine species.
Lysine is absolutely necessary for the production of collagen and muscle. Without it our birds would not regenerate muscles, they would not have healthy hearts, they would not properly regenerate talons, beaks and feathers. This should be a huge “aha” moment for many of us. Many of our birds’ diets have lacked naturally occurring lysine for decades. In addition to the above, lysine supports a healthy auto-immune system and protects against viruses. When arginine is too high in the system an environment for viruses to grow is created. Another “aha” moment should be happening about now for many of us due to the fact that many of our birds’ diets have been way too high in arginine for decades. Many birds do, in fact suffer viral illnesses such as herpes.
It may seem as though I am digressing back into overall diet and nutritional balance at this point in my article, but we absolutely cannot talk about any topic without discussing diet as it relates to our birds’ health. This idea of throwing in the “whole kitchen sink” and creating “diversity” thinking that will be enough for our birds to thrive is bunk! It may seem fine for the short term health of our birds, but sooner or later the long term health of our birds will no doubt suffer. Furthermore, leaving fresh food out for hours on end is playing with fire! These two combined ideas is creating a time bomb in which we could easily begin to see our birds on death’s door while we scratch our heads wondering “Why did my bird suddenly die?” “Why is my bird malnourished when I was feeding it so many fresh foods with so much diversity?” and “Where did my bird pick up this bacteria?”
No, I’m not trying to scare you, but I am trying to talk some common sense into you. Field researchers have not spent decades researching and studying the nutritional requirements of exotic birds for us to throw out their data and ignore the basics of their research. Neither do we have to buy into the fact that many of them have been paid by the commercial bird food manufacturers to say what those manufacturers want them to say so their foods will sell to the public. We must use our common sense, extract the information from field research to use for our birds’ best interest. Combine that information with the fact the birds are still wild-at-heart and require similar foods they would consume in their natural habitats in order to thrive. But to think that only 20 or 30 foods is enough to make our birds thrive is total folly. And thinking we can accomplish that by feeding totally fresh in our homes without laboratory testing for “balance” is further folly on our part.
Again, this is why Origins Wild Diet! foods set out to produce minimally processed raw foods that are laboratory tested for “balance” of nutrients. Then we encourage our customers to feed fresh foods as I mentioned above at about ¼ fresh, raw foods to ¾ Origins Wild Diet! -BUT…we strongly, strongly suggest those foods are removed within the FDA 2 hour guideline to prevent your birds from potentially ingesting harmful bacteria. It just makes good, common sense all the way around.
Folks I’m all for empowering you, the caregiver of your beloved companion bird! I want you to be fully engaged in caring for your bird and equipped to do so! Let’s all use the intellect and common sense we’ve been given. Our company has been at the revolutionary forefront of avian nutrition for close to two decades now. We were the first to bring back raw diets. We were the first to use D3 containing alfalfa as a base ingredient in place of glutinous grains. We were the first to introduce species-specific. Now we are the first to remove high-cellulose foods from the overall parrot species who lack “cellulase” and “ceca” therefore lacking the ability to digest tough fibers with their short and narrow digestive tract. We were the first to speak up and tout the use of tropical fruit for parrots because that’s what they mainly consume in their indigenous regions. We were the first to stand up for birds and say it’s time to remove cooked foods from their diets because they contribute to “avian leaky gut” syndrome. And it looks like we are going to be the first to tout “moderation and balance, balance, balance” when it comes to feeding our birds too!
Please join us at our UN-Workshops…Empowering YOU! I will be writing a series of articles relating to “Thrivation Station-Food Combining”, “Liver Purification”, “Herbs ‘n Birds” and “Spices in the Lives of Birds” – I will be systematically and alphabetically researching and writing about each food, herb and spice listing its macro, micro and individual constituents. I will explain how each item can be used specifically with our companion birds and how each item combines with other items in a food mix, complimenting other foods as well as how it may potentially have adverse effects in an overall diet. We will be UN-doing decades of myths surrounding the avian diet.
You get to choose how involved you are in each workshop. You can sit back and simply read and follow along. Or you can become as involved as you choose and ask questions. I look forward to your membership! These should be fun classes creating online encyclopedias of all different foods for our birds to enjoy and benefit from!
Ref: (1) http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/PeopleAtRisk/ucm182679.htm; (2) http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm253954.htm; (3) http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/SafePracticesforFoodProcesses/ucm094145.htm; (4) http://www.foodscience.caes.uga.edu/extension/documents/fdaapproximatepHoffoodslacf-pHs.pdf; (5) http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/CausesOfIllnessBadBugBook/ucm122561.htm.
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