Due to how fast the birds go through suet at my place I'm considering starting to make my own suet to cut down on the cost. However, I really don't want to use lard. Does anyone know whether crisco will work?
Critters with hardening of the arteries due to hydrogenated oils in the bird feeder? One time a friend sent me what seemed like 5 lb of chocolate fudge at Christmas, I ate one piece and put the rest out for the critters. I hope no one got sick!
Why dont you want to use lard?
The suet cakes are targetted at the carnivorous nature of some birds, so veggie shortening is not optimal.
I'm vegetarian. I'm not trying to impose that on the birds (they've had the usual non-vegie commercial suet cakes since I moved in three years ago), but I don't want meat products in the house and on my pots/pans/dishes.
Then do not make suet for them, since they need the animal fat.
They don't need suet in the summer. They don't really need supplemental feeding at all at any time.
I can't argue with them needing animal fat. I was just thinking that vegetable oil would be closer to what the omnivoruous birds would be eating in the wild than the hard fatty tissues around the kidneys of cattle and sheep (i.e. - suet) and therefore wouldn't be a bad choice.
Elaine is right, of course.
Omnivorous birds eat bugs.
Very true, this time of year, they get all the food they need in the environment between bugs, berries and seeds. If you want to supplement, I vote for planting food.
I, too, am vegetarian, so was looking for options to lard. Came across these recipes, but don't think they would hold up in summer heat. Have not tried them.
MARVEL MEAL ORIGINAL RECIPE - Veg Suet
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup crisco shortening or other shortening
4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup white flour
Hand mix as one would mix cookie dough. This makes two
pounds. Store in covered container in refrigerator.
Wintertime Vegan "Suet"
The birds won't miss the meat and your kitties will love to watch the action!
2 cups peanut butter
2 cups vegetable shortening
2 cups flour
6 cups cornmeal
Melt peanut butter and shortening in a large pot.
Stir in flour and cornmeal.
Turn dough onto a waxed paper lined 13x9" pan.
Cut into rectangles for use in a suet feeder.
Suet can be stored in a freezer.
I have used the Marvel Mix for years both winter and summer and the birds eat it faster than I can make it. In the summer I make the mix into balls and freeze it and then put a little ball out one at a time just to make sure they eat it before it can go rancid. So far I haven't seen any signs of trouble.
You can offer them lots of things that are not really good for them and they will scarf it up. Kinda like feeding kids white bread. Just because you don't see carcasses on the lawn doesn't mean it's OK.
Whatever. Omnivores eat meat. I do not, but they do.
As Vonyon said, natural food sources are best. I'm out of here.
Thanks for the recipies and tips!
My husband and I are turning our 2 acres of lawn (we bought this house three years ago) into meadow and fruit/nut orchard specifically to help support the wildlife; our eventual goal is to be able to provide plenty of food for the critters with what's growing on the 2 acres. We do not net or spray our various fruit bushes and trees so that the critters get whatever healthy food they want. However, until those plants mature I'd like to supplement with seed/suet.
I know omnivores eat meat. My point with the comment about omnivorous birds was that since they do eat foods that contain vegetable fats, providing suet made from vegetable oil woundn't be especially foreign to their diet.
The question I was trying to answer with this thread is whether vegetable oil is actually unhealthy for birds. I agree that Elly that just because they eat it doesn't mean its good for them. Anyone know?
Here are some opinions from various birders. "Crisco is a hydrogenated oil product with unlimited shelf life, and is not fit to eat for man or beast." There are some who feel it has the potential of not being digested by the Bluebirds and thus becoming a laxative (the jury is still out). The hydrogenation used to make shortening results in lots of trans fatty acids. Birds of all types will eat the fat from a carcass in the wild. Experts frequently disagree (on anything!). None of the experts indicated that a single serving or batch of any particular fat source would be harmful. However, it is never a bad thing to err on the side of caution. To be absolutely safe, until more evidence is presented, it is probably best to avoid vegetable shortening if at all possible, at least the hydrogentated kind - that goes for peanut butter as well. Most peanut butters have hydrogenated oils, only natural peanut butter should be used for birds (and people!).
The final decision on using vegetable shortening versus lard is still out, even among the experts. Here's an interesting site I found while researching this. I've used both lard and shortening as well as mostly peanut butter based seed cakes and all seem well received by the birds. That doesn't necessarily mean they are good for them.
Here is a link that might be useful: Fat in
OMG,, hydro oils??? i don't allow anything with that evil stuff in the house. .and these days it is in EVERYTHING.... even supposedly "healthy" cereal! sheesh...
IMO it's worse than lard, at least lard is a natural product... hydrpogenated oils are a man-made/refined/ artifical product, that causes more health problems than lard. and to think we were all brainwashed for years that margarine was healthier......?? (of course now there ARE non-hydro butter alternatives...)
in the old days humans ate lard and other meat products and very often lived into their 90's-100's just fine (of course lots of hard work helped too!).
if i was going to make something for the birides i would probably use natural peanut butter (meaning ground peanuts only).
anyway, that's my opinion & i'm stickin' with it.
will a better choice be crisco in the green can, it says 0 trans fat
just wondering...im about to attemp making my own suet too, and im not sure how easy it is to find lard at the grocery store and crisco is very easily obtainable
Suet is a natural product and is eaten by birds in nature. You can make your own suet cakes with beef fat gotten from your grocer. Just ask at the meat department. Then do a Google search for suet and you will find more recipes than you know what to do with! In warm weather you need to "render" the beef fat to make it harder and less prone to melting or going rancid but it is not difficult to do. In cold weather you can just put out the pieces of fat and the birds will love you!
Most birds are NOT strict vegetarians but eat a variety of foods. I watched a cardinal today eating seeds from a weed growing in one of my flower pots and then catching insects crawling on my sidewalk. Too many people think they are just seed eaters. Not true. Even nectar eaters like hummingbirds will eat insects.
Crisco is not a natural bird food. I'm not saying it's harmful to birds since even the experts disagree on that issue, but if you want to be reasonably sure what you're feeding is the best available, make your own or buy suet cakes from a reputable birding supplier.
Even nectar eaters like hummingbirds will eat insects.
Protein and ammino acids are the building blocks of life.
"Everything" needs it. Hummers get protein out of small and microscopic bugs that are in the flowers/nectar. They cannot live on suger water. Mostly the sugar water you put out gives them additional energy to find those flowers that have buggy nectar. Just FYI
As for Crisco vs. lard etc.
Lard is a pork product and is harder to digest than beef or deer suet. Just because I'm a vegetarian doesn't mean I'm going to make wildlife comply. Crisco is just to much of an unknown - does it even have a good energy providing nutrition for birds? who knows?
Since the original poster is in zone 5 with fairly hard winters I would stick to suet in the winter - the birds need it then.
As for the statement that birds don't need supplemental feeding ever - I disagree. Maybe not in summer but birds do die in the winter from cold. A chickadee can lose 30-40% of its energy reserves in one really cold night. If it doesn't make up those energy reserves the next day and the next night is cold bye bye chickadee. Now if someone means that there will still be a bird population left at the end of winter without supplemental feeding that may be true. But with our huge housing developments with MacMansions and acres of lawn and human population explosion I think feeding the birds in the northern winters is important and having a few survivors isn't good enough for me.
i just started doing the crisco suet recipe and the birds love it. i think of it as a treat though since i believe they are getting all the nutrients they need elsewhere. birds dont need us to feed them so this is why i dont see the difference in using beef fat or lard or crisco. if its just a "snack" its not going to harm them, and there is no evidence that using crisco harms birds. id rather my birds eat store bought premade suet its cheaper thats for sure, since im making my own suet its costing me double of what the store bought blocks are but the birds just wont eat it.
the best thing about making your own is you can add anything you want. you can make it buggy by adding mealworms found in petstores (canned or fresh) you can add raisins etc the list is endless. but for me im using the basic recipe for now
1 cup crisco
1 cup chunky peanut butter
4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
soften the PB and crisco in the micro until soft and blend the remaining ingrediants together. i put them in mini meatloaf pans and cut them to fit the feeder. stores in the fridge for 2 weeks or you can freeze.
if you keep in mind that suet is simply a snack we are providing then there shouldnt be any debate
I don't know how, but I've seen a couple of manufaturers on food labels say 'not trans fat" and then see "partially hydrogenated " on the label.and that IS trans fat...and it's a killer....I'm no expert, but what works for people works for animals....avoid the trans fat...and yes, peanut butters of must types are LOADED with it...look for "smuckers" all natural...harder to mix...but worth the trouble. We're supposed to be helping creaturers here, and unfortulately, mass marketers of foods don't care a wit about people, let alone birds....so if in doubt, go the safe way....and wait till it's cool before you put out...or try a method listed above, and freeze, put out in small batches....hope this helps
Well shoot guys. This really screws things up for me big time. I am all ready to make pine cones with goodies stuffed in the cracks for all my stocking stuffers this year. Got my string, my wire for hanging, my colorful paper for wrapping, and now I come across this debate over which ingreds to use. That was my next stop....the store for peanut butter and DA DA DA DUM Crisco. Now I don't know what to do. I guess I will simply buy a few jars of the really good, out of solution peanut butter and add some corn meal, some sunflower seeds, and call it good.
Dang. I was feeling good about making things for gifts too, instead of being such a mindless consumer.
Do all the birds a favor. go to www.sialis.org. There are suit resipies there from Blue Birders and you KNOW how anel THEY are about the birds! I happen to be one, so I can tell ya! I do the Malinda's and it is well recieved by all.
There's nothing more amusing than humans imposing their own self-righteous ideologies on the natural order of things. Vegan suet? I've never fed a vegan to my woodpeckers, but heck, I'm willing to try anything.
Thank you Lisa for recommending sialis.org. They have a LOT of great suet recipes. This is what they say about lard vs. vegetable shortening:
"(Beef or Sheep) Suet vs. (Pig) Lard vs. Vegetable Shortening (Crisco, etc.): All work in suet recipes, as long as you adjust the dry ingredients (e.g., flour) to keep the texture crumbly. Vegetable shortening has a longer shelf life. Suet in its raw form should be avoided. Beef suet may turn rancid when temperatures exceed 70 degrees. When melted and clarified, beef suet is called "tallow." Tallow is less likely to go rancid over time; however it is not easily digested by birds because it is high in saturated fats. Some birders are concerned about the health impact of using vegetable shortening.
* A nutritionist at the San Diego Zoo indicated that there is no health risk associated specifically with vegetable oil.
* Dr. Sean Pampreen, an avian vet in Marlborough, CT, indicated he did not think that vegetable shortening used as a binder in suet (which is only a supplemental food for wild birds) would cause digestive problems, especially since sunflower, millet and peanut are about 45-56% oil.
* Bill Whittaker of Four Nature's Keepers says saturated fats (such as in suet) are more difficult/require more energy for birds to digest than unsaturated fats (such as in vegetable shortening). They also found in field tests that after a familiarization period, birds prefer vegetable shortening.
* Dr. Kirk Klasing, Professor of Avian Nutrition at UC Davis, said that very high amounts of fatty acids are difficult to emulsify by the bile, lowering digestibility. Adding a source of unsaturated fats, such as vegetable oil or lard, improves digestibility (e.g., 80% tallow, 20% vegetable oil or lard is a good combination - you can adjust the proportions to give the melting point desired). Peanut butter also works to increase digestibility of tallow because it is high in unsaturated fats. He was not aware of any evidence for a laxative effect of vegetable oil. Like tallow, vegetable shortening is solid at room temperatures. However, the hydrogenation used to make shortening results in lots of trans fatty acids. Though we don't know for sure, it is likely that the trans fatty acids are less healthy than "natural" cis fatty acids (unhydrogenated oils).
In chickens, high levels of trans fatty acids deplete antioxidants in the tissues. It would be best to avoid high levels of vegetable shortening.
* Crisco does make a zero-trans-fat shortening (in a green container.)
* Another alternative is soybean shortening without additives, at as low a melting temperature (less saturation) as you can use to make an acceptable food.
In terms of protein content, suet has about 0.4 grams of protein/oz. in it; lard and vegetable shortening have none. Both suet and vegetable shortening have about the same amount of calories and fat content. Beef suet has more saturated fat which may be harder to digest.
JL Peterson found bluebirds preferred recipes made with suet. A friend reported bluebirds in her area preferred Crisco-based suets. Crisco does offer a zero-trans fat product. If you're concerned about using either of these ingredients, you can replace them with extra peanut butter until the mixture reaches the desired consistency."
So, I will definitely be using vegetable shortening, I'm going to see if they have an organic version at the health food store. It just doesn't feel right to me to help out some animals by feeding them other animals. I'm also going to use raw peanuts and seeds instead of commercial peanut butter, like the birds would naturally eat. Cooking food kills all the enzymes which are so necessary for cells to be able to use the nutrients in the food.
Here's the page where I got this info:
Best wishes, fellow bird lovers!
Here is a link that might be useful: Sialis info on crisco/vegetarian suet
Have you considered using gelatin instead? I made some and posted the recipe on my blog. A link to it is below.
Here is a link that might be useful: A Minneapolis Homestead
Keep in mind that gelatin is derived from the skin and bones of cows and pigs, so while there are probably a lot of folks who would be comfortable with that option, many vegetarians and vegans would not be comfortable with it.
Maybe pectin or agar could be used as a binder for vegan suet?
Some people may think this is something silly to be worried about, but some of us don't feel comfortable supporting the conventional meat industry. Animals feeding off other animals in nature is very different than the way that the large factory farms operate (which I consider very unnatural). Therefore I don't put out suet for the birds. It would be nice if there was a veggie option that I could use.
I'm not quite sure when vegetable oil became evil. ;-)
I knew an ornithologist who slapped a wad of crisco on the trunk of the tree. He didn't mix anything with it.
Somehow I just can't associate seed eating birds with being carnivores. They may consume some bugs in the summer, but that hardly makes them carnivores. Sounds more like omnivores to me. Regardless, there isn't anything wrong with using shortening in suet, and for those who wish to do it - just substitute with more peanut butter (as one member already suggested). Lard is a fat that birds to not consume in nature. Living in the Great White North, I know the birds really appreciate the extra food source, as when everything is covered with snow, it is harder for them to forage. Besides, the suet blocks you can buy in the store, are made with God knows what. They are stored at room temperature and don't really seem to degrade (I had one hanging all winter and summer) and the birds don't like them. Makes me wonder what the heck they're made of - now THAT can't be good for the birds.
Lard is NOT more difficult to digest than beef fat. Both are caloric-dense natural fats that are readily utilized by birds and mammals.
There are differing concentrations of various fatty acids between the two, which cause beef fat to be more 'firm' at room temperature than lard(or shortening, for that matter). Hence, beef fat is more commonly used for bird-feeding because it remains 'solid' at higher ambient temperatures - and, in general, beef tallow has less acceptance as a 'cooking' oil, so excess beef fat not utilized in ground beef products is more readily available as a 'waste product' of sorts, than is lard.
I read someplace that is bad to put suet or feed in the mess bags the feet of the birds get caught in the webbing! Has anyone else heard of this happening?