It is stunning that even now some companies still say that their pellets are all you need to feed? Just goes to show what lengths they will go to sell their products.
Below you will find a huge amount of 'cut and pasted' information.
It covers known health issues. The make up of pellets and their added synthetic supplements, including their effects on the body compared with natural vitamins.
An eye opener at best, and will rattle a few cages.
Quote "As some of you will of seen there has been some discussion re the use of Pellets and the amounts that should make up the daily diet.
I have been trying to find sound facts to back up what I have claimed that if you still find you need to feed pellets only that amount should not exceed 20 to 30% Pellets and the rest made up of seeds and other foods.
This is what I have found so far.
This I found and add part of it here, with the link to the complete item for you.
Pelleted And Extruded Diets" Quote
Dr. Lafeber was followed by many other entrepreneurs. They all thought that if they took the known nutritional needs of chickens and added the missing ingredients to industrial grains, they could come up with an ideal product. What we ended up with are today’s pellets, which are kind of like military K-rations or meals-ready-to-eat. Throw all the required stuff in a pot, grind it up, heat it up, press it through an extruder, add a slick marketing campaign and a nifty bag and Vuala! - the perfect parrot food.
Most aviculturalists use the words pelleted diet and extruded diet interchangeably and that is fine. But in production, extruded diets pass through a process of higher heat and pressure than pelleted diets. Today, most are extruded.
I have great respect for the late Dr. Lafeber. His idea was an enormous advancement in pet bird nutrition. In fact, it was the beginning of pet bird nutrition. I would call him at his Animal Hospital in Niles, Illinois and we’d chew the fat over a difficult case. His pellets were convenient, the birds couldn’t sort through to pick and choose, they had enough vitamin A and D-3 and Calcium and they corrected the amino acid imbalance by adding lysine and methionine. Feeding this diet was light-years more health than feeding a seed diet. Suddenly, budgies and cockatiels were living so much longer. Today, there are many brands to choose from. I am fond of Mazuri products, but there are many other good brands.
However, with time, problems in birds fed solely pellets became apparent. For one, pellets robbed the pet of foraging time, exercise and exploration - all important part of your bird’s mental health. Like prison or institutional food, prepared by certified nutritionists you won’t develop scurvy or beriberi eating it, but you may eventually flip out. Or you might eat so much of it out of boredom that your weight skyrockets.
Another potential worry are the mold toxins that are common in industrial grains - the basis of all pellets. They are called mycotoxins and I will discuss them a bit later.
Avian pellets are marketed as nutritionally “complete”. The problem is that we really have no idea what that means. We know what will keep a chicken alive and free from illness for a year or two and all pellet producers start there. But the few studies in pet birds have been of very short duration, and, to the best of my knowledge, always conducted by the same person or organization marketing the product. (that didn't stop the AAFCO from issuing pet bird nutritional guidelines in 199
That is very disturbing to me when we are talking about feeding one product or very similar products monotonously over 20 –30 years. That is entirely unlike the situation God anticipated when he created these creatures to flutter here and there, following the maturing of wild fruits, buds, seeds and berries. He designed them to thrive on nutritional variety, not nutritional adequacy.
Another problem with stored cereal-based pellets is what happens to them after they leave the factory. When you buy them from feed store, online or from your veterinarians, you never know how long they sat on the shelf, at what temperature, and with what exposure to gnawing rodents.
I avoid products that have been dyed with anything but products similar to the anthocyanins dyes of red cabbage and blueberries. It is safer to purchase a non-dyed product and sprinkle grated carrot, red cabbage or blueberries in it.
Is There A Place For Pellets In My Pet’s Diet ?
Yes, the secret to a healthy diet for your parrot is variety - and pellets can be a part of that variety. Just don’t feed them in the amounts that the manufacturers suggest. When they suggest 80% pellets and 20% mixed fruits and vegetables – reverse that number.
The Problem of Mold Toxins In Industrial Grains
Mold toxins (mycotoxins, aflatoxins) are a constant hazard in the industrial grain industry for humans and pets alike. They are phantom poisons, tasteless, odorless, appearing suddenly in one field of corn and not the next. Some times these fungi are present in large amounts but produces no toxins, other times the opposite occurs. Sometimes (usually) the toxins are present before harvest but they can also appear during storage. They are impervious to cooking heat and no process has yet been developed that destroys them. (There is more about them in the article of mine on Avian Gout)
Currently, the US government allows a maximum of 20 ppb (parts per billion) of combined aflatoxins in human food. (ref) Canada only allows 15 ppb and the European Union only 4 ppb. For human infants, the maximum amount in the US is 0.5 ppb; in Europe 0.1 ppb. So much of the premium Minnesota corn leaves for Europe.
Birds appear to be less resistant to aflatoxins than many mammals.(ref) When US corn exceeds 20 ppb, it gets sold as deer corn, cut with clean corn to drop the reading to legal levels, or shipped overseas. Marketers of avian products will tell you that scientific studies show that the level it takes to kill birds is much higher than that in their products. But the studies they quote were not run in parrots and were for acute (rapid) toxicity, not chronic (long term) exposure. (A few puffs on a cigarette won't hurt you, but a lifetime of smoking will)
I check with Purina/Mazuri Mills from time to time to see what their aflatoxin readings are running. If your avian pellet supplier won’t provide aflatoxin, fumonisin and DON (vomitoxin) levels in their finished pellet (determined with test as sensitive as the Charm Rosa test) - shop elsewhere.
This from Avian Web. Again I will post part of what is written and also the link, so that one can read it all.
Quote Avoid pellets as much as possible: (Other than, at best, Harrison's which vets commonly recommend and sell - and even then pellets should only be part of a healthy diet, not an exclusive diet).
Most pellets contain chemicals such as artificial coloring / flavoring / preservatives, etc . Parrots may be able to tolerate these for a year or two, but once these chemicals build up in the "system" to a certain degree, symptoms such as feather plucking, aggression and, in some species, toe tapping and wing flipping, aggression may appear.
Pellets may cause kidney problems, particularly in birds that don't drink much. Also, there is s enough anecdotal and circumstantial evidence that pellets may cause major health problems for mutations, the reason of which is not quite known.
*Please note: If your bird's diet does include pellets, please be aware of the fact that overly feeding citrus fruits (including oranges) to your birds can lead to "Iron Overload Disease." Quote
This from Holistic Birds.
As time went on and I learned more, I started realizing how extremist my viewpoints of feeding just pellets really were. Of course an all-seed diet will result in malnourished birds. There are nutrients that seeds do not contain. A limited diet of any kind will result in malnutrition. Even most pellet manufacturers admit that feeding an all pellet diet is not to the bird's best benefit over the long term.
Pellets definitely aren't tailored for any particular bird. However, there is a phenomenon we have discussed previously on this list. When birds, who have been on a poor diet, are initially fed pellets, they begin to glow with good health. Their beaks, feathers, and feet clearly demonstrate the the dietary outages have been corrected. As time goes by, there is a rebound effect, where other nutritional problems arise because of the nutritional misses or overages in the pelleted diet.
In nature many birds subsist mainly on seeds. Cockatiels, budgies, and many of the grass keets are included in this. MAINLY, however, is the operative word. Birds free to choose their diet do not eat only seeds. They have a host of other foods to choose from, and this includes: leaf, bud, branch, bark, soil, flower, pollen, green seed head, fruit, pond algae, other vegetation and bugs. As they forage, they consume a wide variety of foods to fill their nutritional needs.
When they are sick, their body draws them to plants whose energies complement their needs so they can be healed. Birds in captivity have access to only what we feed them and it is nowhere near the variety that nature provides. Even though, due to seasonal variation, the natural environment is not always lush and food is consequently limited, this privation is not ongoing throughout the bird's life. There is relief as the season changes. Not so in captivity.
It is well documented by veterinarians that an all-seed diet causes malnutrition. In my opinion a pellet diet provides many of the vitamins and minerals lacking in seeds, but in its own way is also limited causing other problems of malnourishment. Some are problems of excess and others are caused by nutrients still lacking in the pellets.
Although seeds should not be the complete diet they should be part of a healthy, balanced diet. Seeds are now included in my birds' diet. Why? Because seeds contain some good nutrients useful for maintaining the health of my birds.
And the link to the page.
When it comes to pellets & Eclectus parrots there is always debate. We either love them or hate them. Pellets used to be known to cause many behavioural & health problems in the Eclectus & people today still seem to believe they still do. Much has been studied & changed to suit the species parrot when it comes to pellets. You can now buy 100% natural, organic species specific pellets so, they have certainly come a long way to
what they used to be.
The previous pellet ingredient problems were said to be red dye, excessive amounts of vitamins & minerals & especially excessive amounts of vitamin D3. These caused many problems with Eclectus parrots such as screaming, plucking & aggression & more but one of the main problems noted was toe tapping. Today you can now buy pellets that have the correct amount of vitamins & minerals for the Eclectus so there is a far less risk of your Eclectus developing any pellet related health issues.
There are still some Eclectus parrots that, no matter what pellets they use or how natural they are, still end up with problems. This is more of an individual sensitivity & issue than it is a species related issue. Although Eclectus parrots are generally a hardy bird, as a species they’re a little more sensitive to diets than other species of parrot & some individuals appear to be even more sensitive to all sorts foods. If an Eclectus is sensitive to even the best pellets on the market then it's possible they’re sensitive to other foods in their diet as well, no matter how healthy that food may be.
It is known that Eclectus parrots do extremely well on natural soft fresh food diets but not everyone is able to cater for an enormous variety as well as an enormous appetite when it comes to healthy human foods. To have an Eclectus solely on a healthy human food diet, the variety needs to be very broad.
Today feeding healthy human foods is on the increase but there are some that still prefer to use pellets as a base diet & have never experienced any health issues doing so. Generally, unless your Eclectus is more sensitive than usual to certain foods you shouldn't have problems feeding pellets.
Pellets do not need to be used as the base diet for the Eclectus. A variety of everything, including a few pellets is sufficient. Many people also use pellets to extract the vitamins & minerals the Eclectus will need daily. There has been minimal problems in regards to non pellet eaters lacking in vitamins & minerals. Quote
The full page here
Re printed courtesy of Maggie at
Quote: Why Food Is Better Than Pellets
By Alicia McWatters, Ph.D. "PROVIDE COMPLETE, BALANCED NUTRITION TO ALL OF YOUR FEATHERED FRIENDS BY SERVING A PELLETED BIRD FEED" This is what many of the advertisements are saying. We are told that all the essential nutrients our birds will ever need are to be found in a bag or canister, and by simply pouring these crunchy morsels into our birds’ feed bowls, we’ve done our jobs as good bird owners. And many of us are happy because we think we’re providing our pet birds with 100% nutrition. But we have been deceived. All of the known vitamins and minerals might be there in the pelleted diets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing our birds much good. Commercial feed makers would like you to believe that our birds’ bodies can’t tell the difference between synthetic nutrients and nutrients in food. The reasoning goes something like this, "Synthetic vitamins are manufactured to produce the same chemicals that a vitamin is made of, so our birds’ bodies can’t tell the difference." We’re also told: "Don’t feed too many fresh foods like fruits and vegetables: they are not nearly as healthy as a perfectly balanced pelleted feed and may upset its delicate balance." With my busy schedule, I wish this were true. Let me tell you I say this:
NUTRIENTS, SYNTHETIC VERSUS REAL
Synthetic nutrients are not the same as those from foods, and our birds’ bodies CAN tell the difference. An example: Vitamin C is known as a chemical called ascorbic acid. But, when Dr. Svent Gyorgyi first isolated ascorbic acid as a cure for scurvy, an interesting thing occurred: isolated ascorbic acid did not completely cure scurvy, but only lessened its effect. Later when vitamin C in the crude (raw) form from peppers was used, it cured scurvy completely. What was the difference? The difference was that ascorbic acid in food is always found with a class of compounds called bioflavonoids, which scientists have confirmed are necessary to completely cure scurvy.
Bioflavonoids do more than just prevent scurvy. They are a phytochemical that has important biological functions. They are antioxidant compounds that protect our birds from free radical damage and cancer. These natural substances also have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties that may help arthritic conditions, as well as boost immunity.
There are also needed trace element-containing enzymes found in vitamin C in food. One of these is ascorbate oxidase, a copper containing enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of ascorbic acid at a physiological pH that makes ascorbic acid effective in the body as an antioxidant. Another important enzyme is tyrosinase, which supplies organic copper needed in the body for lymphocyte function and other purposes. There are other co-nutrients found with vitamin C and some we don’t even know about yet.
These co-nutrients are required to make vitamin C an effective protective agent against disease. Ascorbic acid alone has limited value in the body. Ascorbic acid is just one compound out of a number of nutrients that are found together in food and are known collectively as vitamin C. They work together synergistically.
What applies to vitamin C applies to ALL vitamins. Vitamins in nature are never isolated in pure crystalline states. They are always found in combination with proteins, trace element-containing enzymes, and other substances in a complex of nutrients.
Nature put all of those nutrients together in food for a very good reason– they are ALL needed to work together to protect us from disease. There is a biological difference between natural and synthetic sources of vitamins.
BIRDS AND VITAMIN C
Since birds are known to synthesize vitamin C in sufficient amounts, many feel it is not necessary in their diets. We have noticed that in times of stress, and that includes at breeding times, our birds consume larger amounts of foods containing this vitamin; thus, we feel it to be especially useful at these times. Also, a bird may have a dysfunction of the enzyme that produces vitamin C; therefore, individual requirements may vary. Vitamin C is known to prevent C. Albicans, viral and various bacterial infections. Some factors which deplete vitamin from the body are: stress, air pollution, cortisone, antihistamines and tetracyclines. A deficiency may cause anemia, poor digestion, decreased resistance to infections, stress, bone and joint disorders, and dry skin and feathers. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, berries, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, garlic and most fresh uncooked fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C therapy may help with allergies, high cholesterol, sinusitis, diabetes, gout, heart disease, cataracts, cancer prevention and kidney disorders. Vitamin C is a natural anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, antioxidant and anti-stress nutrient. It assists in collagen production, iron absorption, red blood cell formation, proper function of the adrenal glands, burn and wound healing, and it boosts immune system function. The absorption of iron and calcium are increased by adequate intake of vitamin C. Foods high in vitamin C work as antioxidants which help free the body of the daily toxins (unavoidable in some cases) which are in our air, water, some foods, radiation, toxic metals, stress and other harmful environmental conditions (known as "free radicals") which can cause damage to our birds’ health.
Bioflavonoids are nutrients which are not synthesized by the body and must be obtained in the diet. There are many different bioflavonoids, including hesperidin, quercetin, rutin, and they are sometimes referred to as vitamin P. Bioflavonoids possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic capabilities, and they often occur with vitamin C in fruits and vegetables, as they work in conjunction with vitamin C to enhance its absorption. Bioflavonoids are found in the pulp and white grind just beneath the peel of citrus fruits, along with cherries, blackberries, blueberries, apricots, grapes, peppers, soybeans, garlic and buckwheat. Bioflavonoids may be helpful for reducing pain, healing bruises and protecting the structure of the capillaries. They have been known to possess antibacterial properties, as well as to aid in the prevention of cataracts and cancer.
In the case of vitamin E (tocopherol), the dextro form occurs in nature in foods, such as nuts, seeds, grains, legumes and vegetables— and is the form that is highly usable and biologically active in the body. Synthetic vitamin E is found in the levo form of tocopherol (listed as dl-tocopherol), and it is only partially usable in the body, meaning that the unusable portion is eliminated.
An interesting phenomenon is sometimes seen in clinical work. Treatments with high doses of synthetic vitamins, such as synthetic ascorbic acid and B-1 (thiamine), will cause adverse reactions, while naturally derived vitamins at the same dosage cause no harm. The body’s biological response to synthetic vitamins can be very different from its response to the natural vitamin containing all the synergies. That is because vitamins in the chemically isolated form often don’t function as vitamins, but more like drugs. It is the abnormally high levels that can induce toxicity similar to the way a drug can.
One of the biggest myths today concerning food is that we can make food healthy by enriching or fortifying it with synthetic vitamins, minerals, amino acids and so forth after the natural nutrients have been removed. Grains lose an average of 75% or more of their vitamin and mineral content after the germ and bran are removed in the processing and refining procedures. Grains also lose their vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese and chromium during processing. The germ and bran content are the most nutritious parts of grains, and they are thrown away. Of the thirty known nutrients removed, usually only around four are added back in synthetically. These synthetic nutrients are NOT the same as the nutrients nature produces and, in some cases, they may be virtually useless to our birds’ bodies. We are left with a fractional feed, an inferior product.
The way our birds are supposed to get their nutrients is in the form that nature provides...whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and so forth. Living food provides minerals in organic form, biologically combined with special proteins (enzymes and amino acids) that allow the body to utilize them properly.
Beyond proper utilization, many trace minerals are toxic, if our birds eat them in inorganic form. Zinc can be toxic as an inorganic chemical, such as from zinc-coated toy parts, galvanized hardware cloth, or supplemented zinc (ie..zinc oxide), but it is a necessary and very important nutrient in food. Elemental copper is considered a heavy metal; but if a bird absorbs too much, it can be poisoned. Iodine can be poisonous in its elemental form, but is also essential in food.
It is quite remarkable how nature converts something that’s toxic to our birds in an inorganic form–to a safe organic form–nutrients in food. Your Grey can never be harmed from the trace minerals in food because nature balances the elements out and gives them to our birds in the form their bodies can safely use.
In the case of selenium, the organic form is selenoamino acids, such as L-selenomethionine. In this form, it is assimilated into the tissues readily and is useful as an antioxidant and is easily tolerated at levels where inorganic forms would show toxicity. Inorganic selenium compounds, such as sodium selenite, while much better than elemental selenium, become toxic in much smaller amounts than with selenoamino acids and are assimilated into the tissues poorly.
The same holds true for other inorganic compounds of minerals. They include calcium carbonate as a calcium source and ferrous sulfate as an iron source. They are much easier to make than organic forms and cost less. None of the inorganic forms have the biological activity of the organic forms found in food. There is a major difference between organic minerals found in living plants and the inorganic minerals found in rocks.
I think of pellets as a supplement, rather than a food, similar to taking a multi-vitamin/mineral pill. Multi-supplements always omit nutrients that are known to be essential and nutrients which are not yet known. Look at the form in which the nutrients in pellets occur. Most use inorganic minerals and synthetic vitamins that have limited value in the body. Also, many of these nutrients don’t break down in a period of time that enables our Greys to absorb the vitamins and minerals they are consuming in these diets. So they pass right through the system unabsorbed and as a result, a deficiency may occur. Because these diets are concentrated, it’s very easy to get far more of certain nutrients than is actually required by the body. And as with any supplement, you never know how much your bird really needs as each Grey is biologically and genetically unique; therefore, dietary requirements will vary.
Finally, how do you know your bird is getting what it says on the label of a fabricated feed? The nutrients in these products are subject to the same losses as they are in food. If vitamins have been sitting around at room temperature for a while since manufacture, they can decompose into unusable and even toxic forms.
THE END RESULT
The end result to all of this is that your bird’s body may have a big job of eliminating the vitamins and minerals it doesn’t need, because it’s getting either excessive amounts or amounts in a form it can’t utilize, and this elimination involves enzymes. While it is true that vitamins and minerals are coenzymes, they are not the enzyme itself, and the enzymes will be helped very little by the excess or unusable forms of vitamins and minerals. The excess or unusable forms of vitamins and minerals act in the body like drugs and have to be expelled continuously. This constant use of the body’s enzymes for the elimination of unneeded or unusable nutrients taxes the body’s enzyme system. Anything that depletes your body of enzymes is detrimental to good health.
It’s one thing if one chooses to feed a pelleted diet because they simply don’t want to take the time to feed a well-balanced fresh food diet and acknowledges that it is inferior to a fresh diet. But is quite another issue when one feeds a pelleted diet because they think it is superior to a varied fresh diet. IT IS NOT!!!
It is my belief that feeding a daily ration of a fabricated feed does not support optimum health for our birds. If you feed a manufactured diet, just remember that it is NO substitute for the whole natural foods.