A: Times are tough. We are all tightening our belts and following our budgets to the letter. When it comes to our bird’s diets, it’s important that we do the very best we can, everyday. The most important thing is that we keep the veggies coming, in whatever form is the most affordable and practical for our budget.
Organic veggies and fruits do have a lot to offer: no chemical pesticides, preservatives or artificial coloring , they are higher in minerals and vitamins and contain more antioxidants, plus they just taste better. However, they are rough on the budget.
Regular produce is completely acceptable to serve as long as it is washed thoroughly. Here in Orlando, there is ONE organic food market that is very difficult for me to get to on any regular basis. The produce in the organic section at the local supermarkets is often old and wilted, so I have been buying more of the regular produce. My birds are fine with it and I am too.
Frozen veggies and fruits are great too. They are usually flash frozen hours after picking, which sometimes makes them fresher than the vegetables in the produce section, which have usually been sitting around in bins following days of shipping. My parrots prefer some frozen veggies over the fresh ones, which may be because moisture occurs in the thawing process. Sometimes, in the summer, they like their veggies served still frozen. As well as being economical and easy to keep, frozen veggies offer a large selection.
Canned veggies are another alternative. Contrary to popular belief, canned veggies stack up quite well against fresh veggies from a nutritional standpoint, and preservatives are not used in the canning process. It is a myth that they are of lesser value than fresh or frozen. Their drawback is that salt is frequently added to enhance flavor for human consumption, so it is a good idea to rinse your canned veggies, and a better idea to buy low or no-sodium products.
Canned fruits often have sugar or syrup added to enhance flavor and texture. I don’t serve fruits in these juices for this reason.
The additional benefits of canned produce is its shelf-life. I try to keep some stocked on my shelves at all times in the event of a power outage or need for emergency evacuation. Since they are already cooked, you will always have a meal at hand. For the traveler with parrots, they are indispensable since refrigeration is limited, if available at all.
With these three options available to us, I still recommend that you serve your parrots fresh vegetables whenever possible. Fresh foods are a large part of their natural diet, and to keep our birds healthy, both physically and mentally, they need to have nature mimicked as much as we can provide. For those times when our wallets can’t take the hit from Whole Foods, regular produce and frozen and canned fruits and veggies will certainly get the job done.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.