What Organic Foods Should I Buy For My Pet Bird?

Organic Produce
Bertrand Louis / EyeEm/Getty Images

Many people have jumped on the organic food band wagon and have decided enough is enough with the processed food, the genetically modified foods and are pursuing a diet that is healthier and cleaner. They are eating more produce, purchasing higher quality foods and laying off the salty snacks. They want  to feel better and get healthier and they believe that going organic is a step in the right direction when it comes to the food they consume.

 

Centuries ago there was no such thing as a processed food. All food was organic because there were no chemical treatments available to the farmer to apply to his crops. He simply used methods like rotating the fields for his crops, applying cow or sheep manure to the fields to enrich the soil and he used natural products to discourage pests. That was how humans farmed for eons. 

But of course with the march of time, chemical companies jumped into this void and began manufacturing pesticides and other chemicals to increase the farmer’s yield. it was great for the farm because his yield was higher, but it probably didn’t do much for the food he produced. 

There has been a shift back to omitting these chemicals and the world of organic food went commercial. And that was a boon not only to the consumers, it opened up an entirely new market for the grocery stores. 

There was just one issue: Organic food is, as a rule usually expensive than conventionally grown commercial crops.

But many, many people are willing to pay that increased price for produce that they know is free of pesticides and chemicals. They feel it is cleaner, more nutritious and they think it tastes better. One example of this is that my birds like mangos. Well, some mangos. Mangos come into season in June and July and mango trees in people’s backyards in South Florida everywhere are loaded with them.

Most of these are organic mangos. I have a friend who gives me mangos from her backyard trees when they are in season as she has so many of them she likes to give them to her friends rather than have them go to waste. 

My flock of Greys go after these backyard mangos my friend gives me like you wouldn’t believe and they get mango at practically every meal during mango season. But if I buy a non-organic commercially grown mango? My birds will pick at mango chunks from the grocery store mango but they certainly don’t get the attention the backyard mango gets. Maybe there is something my Greys know and can taste that I can’t. All I know is that there is a stark difference in their liking the one and their indifference to the other. 

So when is buying organic worth the higher cost and in what foods should you invest your hard-earned money to pay for that difference?

Let’s define what organic really means and how this might affect your flock. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has determined that a food can be labeled organic spending on the level of its purity. There are several levels to consider. The top level or purity is the label “100% Organic.” And it means exactly what it says.

It was grown or produced with absolutely nothing but organic ingredients. A label with the term, “Organic” on it means that the product inside the package has been produced with 95 percent to 99 percent organic ingredients. and the lowest tier? If the label says,“Made With Organic Ingredients,” that means it must have 70% to 94% organic ingredients used in the production of the contents. So you can see how not everything that has the word, “Organic” on the label means that it’s 100% organic. And by the way, the term, “All Natural,” "Free-Range,"  or Hormone Free" doesn’t mean anything in regard to their being organic. These words on a label isn’t regulated by the government. A dish soap company could put the words “hormone free” on their label and of course it would probably be truthful. But it doesn’t mean anything.

 

Some companies are even changing up their packaging and are featuring illustrations of mountains and streams and using more natural looking colors. They use earth tones and images of rising stream and mountain meadows attempting to suggest that it is a more natural and cleaner product. Ignore the mountain meadow and read the label because the images and packing are meaningless. The words are what will tell you what you need to know about the product inside. 

And as far as the nutrition goes, just because it’s organic doesn't make necessarily more nutritious than a conventionally produced product. An organic banana has the same nutritional value as that of a conventionally grown banana. 

But the organic banana won’t have any pesticide residue on it which is one fact to take into consideration when buying food for your birds. 

There are some differences other than the chemical and pesticide consideration. Organic produce typically has a higher level of certain healthy fatty acids which are important and play a big role in fighting heart disease. They also contain higher levels of antioxidants.  Those are the chemical  “Pac Man” guys that run around your system and gobble up free radicals which can cause cancer. 

The biggest factor when thinking about choosing organic products for your flock is the use of pesticides on the product during production. However, just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it is necessarily pesticide-free. They most likely have a far lower amount of pesticide residues than conventionally grown produce but it certainly doesn’t mean that no pesticides were used.

You might have hear do the “The Dirty Dozen.” No, not the film from the 60’s! It’s a list that is put out every year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on which produce items are the most loaded with pesticide residue. Apples have topped the list for years followed by peaches, nectarines. Strawberries releasing the list for 2016. 98% of all of the strawberries tested positive for detectable pesticide residues.

   Apparently each acre of in a field of strawberries is treated with a whopping 300 pounds of pesticides. Some of these chemicals used to treat the strawberry fields are fumigants. These are toxic gases that can drift through the air and invade any nearby children's schools and other public areas. The issue with many of these pesticides is that children exposed to them have a higher chance of children exposed to high levels these chemicals had a higher chance of developing impaired intelligence and ADHD.

But the EWG isn’t all gloom and doom. They also publish a list referred to as “The Clean Fifteen.” If you have birds you’re in luck because this particular list usually has cabbage, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, mangos, sweet corn and frozen sweet peas on it. Not one single fruit on "The Clean Fifteen" list tested positive for more than four types of pesticides, and a few of them only tested positive for one pesticide.

There is another consideration. Some experts state that your best bet with all of your foods is to purchase food produced close to home. Why? When it is transported and trucked in from all over the country, it is exposed to petrochemicals during transport. (Yes, another thing you have to think about.)

So how and when do you choose organic over conventionally grown food? Again, your best bets are locally grown products. You can find these at farmers' markets or at co-ops. More and more local markets are popping up across the country as word gets out about the viability and worth of both locally grown  and organic. If you can find both, so much the better.