Selecting The Right Produce For Your Birds

This should be titled:  “How to buy the best veggies when you live in an area where the produce leaves a lot to be desired.”  Welcome to Orlando!  What a disappointment it has been to find this city so short on choices and quality. The Whole Foods here just isn’t getting the job done for me. The limited selection is often close to what I  consider to be garbage.

In Austin, where I moved from, there is a magnificent Whole Foods AND the City Market, which is owned by a chain supermarket in the area that even surpasses the Austin Whole Foods store. The selection was unbelievable and I could buy only the quantities needed thanks to their bin style layout. Fresh human grade grains and dried beans. Organic spices that you scooped out yourself.  Educated employees. And every variety of everything you could think of.  I was in heaven. This is not the case here. I never realized how spoiled the birds and I had become.

When you are deciding between regular or organic
, know that organically grown produce is defined as those grown without the use of artificial chemicals and pesticides. Contrary to popular belief, organically grown foods are NOT grown without the use of pesticides, it’s just that the ones used are natural. However, their intention is still to kill “pests” while leaving the food intact. The pesticides are still poisonous and dangerous, just not synthetic in nature. Bummer, but still preferable.

Aside from the use of natural pesticides, there are other reason to choose organically grown foods. As regular fruits and veggies are mass grown for a “hurry-up” world, you have no doubt noticed some irregularities:

Bigger is NOT better:
Through genetic engineering, the results of which began showing up in our supermarkets in the 1990s, foods have become unnaturally large. Genetic modification, where original genes are deleted or new ones created and added, is a new science that on the surface appears to be beneficial. It was introduced to make crops resistant to certain diseases or parasites, increase resistance to weather conditions and heighten nutrition.

But in addition to justifiable concerns regarding the environment and economics brought about by this engineering, it is too new a procedure to know the effects that the gene modification will have on humans and other species eating these foods over a period of time. Foods are NOT be labeled as having been genetically modified.  Read this article on the subject.

The bottom line is that apples are supposed to fit in the palm of YOUR hand, not Andre the Giant’s.

Staying fresher for longer is NOT better either:> Another byproduct of engineering. I bought a tomato in the regular produce section once  and forgot about it as it lay on a shelf in the back of the fridge. When I finally came across it several weeks later, I expected it to be a shriveling, rotting mess. It was only slightly softer than when I bought it. I was uncomfortable with eating something that was defying the laws of nature and threw it away. Organic produce doesn’t last as long as some of the new produce, but it is as it was intended to be.

When is produce past its prime? Vegetables and fruits spend a long time in transit following picking. As each day goes by, they are losing their nutritional value by as much as 25%, as represented by their appearance, texture and crispness. A vegetable in its prime should snap when broken. If you pick up a snow pea pod and it bends over in your fingers, it has been sitting there, or somewhere, for a long time and has lost much of its nutritional value due to age.

This is a problem in many supermarkets that have an organic section.  Since the produce can be so high in price, it doesn’t sell as quickly.  I have found that the organic produce is often a worse choice than the regular, nutritionally speaking, because it has been sitting around for so long.  If you are paying top dollar for better quality, it would be nice if the quality WAS actually better.

When selecting your foods, remember that nature itself perfectly imperfect.  All vegetables are not meant to be completely uniform in shape, color or size. THIS is normal and natural. Be sure to thoroughly wash all of your vegetables before serving them to your birds or your family. If you buy regular produce, try to get it locally grown. You can support your community and send a message to the corporate producers of our foods that their farming methods are unacceptable.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

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