All About Suet:  How It's Made and Best Feeding Practices

Dec 04 , 2019

All About Suet: How It's Made and Best Feeding Practices

On our website we offer a lot of Suet-based products for your Wild Birds and Chickens. What is Suet exactly, you might ask...? Here's your answer!

Technically speaking, suet is the hard fat from around the kidneys. Beef suet is most common, but it can come from any livestock animal. In its natural state, it will melt and turn rancid quickly at temperatures above freezing. Because pure suet presents such a feeding challenge, most suet sold in stores is a blend of stabilized fats that have a longer shelf life and are less likely to melt.

Most pre-made suet is made of a base of fat, usually in the form of oil, mixed with a starch such as corn meal or flour. From there, suet made for feeding birds can be highly customized. Let's look at some common additions to suet:

Nuts and Nut Butter
Mostly peanuts, these are a great addition to suet because it is high in fat and protein, which are both energy boosters. Nuts also have a long shelf life, which decreases the likelihood for spoilage.

Suet mixed with seeds can be appealing to more types of birds than just suet alone.

Dried fruits can be added to suet for high energy in the form of complex sugars. The body processes sugar more quickly than fat, giving the birds a quick energy boost. When combined, fruit and nuts together provide fast energy as well as energy on a slow release, giving birds a more sustainable energy level for their seasonal demands.

Dried Bugs
Dried insects can be added to suet to boost the protein content. Mealworms are most frequently added, but sometimes other bugs can be found in mixtures. Insects are high in protein, which builds muscle and helps grow feathers. Birds can benefit from added protein in every season!

Minerals and Grit
A bird's digestive tract is nothing like ours. Their gizzard, which is comparable to our stomach, needs grit to properly break down food. This means birds need to eat sand and tiny pebbles to get the most nutrients from the food they eat.

When produced commercially, all the materials are combined and mixed together until the blend is homogeneous. Next, the product is extruded into its final shape. Most commonly this is a square cake that fits into a standard suet feeder, but suet can be made into any shape! These newly made cakes are immediately wrapped individually and packaged. Suet pellets are allowed to cure for 24 hours and then packed into large bags the following day.

What types of birds will visit my suet feeders?
The most commonly seen birds visiting suet feeders are Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches, Carolina Wrens, and Jays. But there are many more! Some birds won't visit seed feeders but will visit suet feeders. Suet can add more variety to your yard!

Where should I place my suet feeders?
Many birds who eat suet are cling feeders. For this reason, it is suggested that feeders be placed near trees. Birds seem to prefer them when they are placed five to six feet above the ground. Be aware of what is underneath the suet feeder. If the weather is warm, some types of suet can melt and damage the finish on decks or patios. Placing suet feeders in the shade can prevent melt as well. Consider offering a small amount at first to prevent spoilage.

Melted suet can cause more problems than just spoilage. This gooey suet can stick to the belly feathers of the birds and impair the natural insulation and waterproofing of their plumage. When they go back to their nests, it can transfer to the incubating eggs, clogging pores and preventing embryonic development. Or worse, transfer to the chicks themselves.

An important note:
When buying suet, be sure to purchase from reputable dealers. Corn and peanuts can contain a toxin-producing fungus that can be deadly to birds and other wildlife. Responsible manufacturers will perform lab tests on every shipment they receive. Critter Boutique works with a supplier that is FDA compliant, so we know that the products we ship out have been produced in a facility suitable for human grade food.




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