Feathered Dilemma: Is Including Meat in Your Parrot’s Diet a Yes or No?

Parrots are commonly thought to be strictly vegetarian. But they are actually omnivores able to consume small amounts of animal protein along with fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and other plant-based foods.

In the wild, parrots will sometimes eat insects, grubs, larvae, small reptiles, eggs, chicks, and even carrion. Their strong beaks allow them to crack open bones to access the marrow. So yes, parrots are adapted to process and digest limited quantities of meat.

Can You Feed Meat to Your Parrots?

While parrots are technically omnivores, meat should comprise only a tiny portion of their diet at most. Their digestive systems are not designed to process large amounts of animal protein.

Small shreds of cooked lean meats like chicken may be offered on rare occasions, but avoid fatty, salty meats. Introduce slowly while monitoring droppings. Focus their nutrition on a vegetable, grain and nut-based diet instead.

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The Misconception of Parrots as Strict Herbivores

The misconception of parrots as obligate herbivores comes from a few places:

  • Observations of Wild Diet – The bulk of a parrot’s natural diet is composed of nuts, seeds, fruits, buds, and vegetation. People don’t always witness them eating animal protein.
  • Commercial Diets – Seed and pellet diets for captive parrots are plant-based without meat ingredients. This contributes to the perception parrots only need grains and veggies.
  • Sensitive Digestive Systems – Parrots are vulnerable to GI upset. Their relatively delicate digestion compared to obligate carnivores adds to the theory of parrots as herbivores.
  • Selective Behaviors – Some parrots may reject meat items even when offered. Owners assume they dislike or cannot eat meat when in fact individual taste preferences are the reason.
  • Health Concerns – Fear of obesity, gout, or other problems makes some owners limit fats and proteins. This extends to avoiding meat.

So, in reality, parrots are designed as omnivores and can eat meat, they just do not require large quantities of it. Their natural diet and anatomy support occasional meat consumption rather than primarily subsisting on it.

Meat Matters: Unlocking the Nutritional Advantages for Parrots

When fed properly, meat can provide some nutritional and behavioral enrichment benefits:

  • Complete Proteins – Meat contains all the essential amino acids for building strong muscles, organs, and feathers. Plant proteins are typically missing one or more.
  • Micronutrients – Meat supplies iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, copper, and B-vitamins for immunity, metabolism, and DNA synthesis.
  • Fatty Acids – Animal fat provides omega-3s EPA and DHA for skin/feather health and cognitive development.
  • Enriched Behaviors – Chewing meat and bones satisfy natural foraging instincts. This provides mental stimulation.
  • Digestive Support – The natural enzymes in raw meat help parrots break down and assimilate other foods.
  • Satiation – Meat proteins and fats promote a feeling of fullness and satisfaction compared to carbohydrate-heavy foods.

When incorporated into a comprehensive diet, meat can provide natural sources of key nutrients, healthy fats, and proteins not found in plants. This supports overall well-being.

A Meaty Dilemma: Weighing the Health Implications for Parrots

While meat can be beneficial, there are some cautions and contraindications to be aware of:

  • GI Upset – Spoiled meat or too much fat/protein causes diarrhea, vomiting, sour crops, and other issues.
  • High Purine Levels – Purines in meat may trigger gout in susceptible parrots.
  • Heavy Metals – Meat may contain mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxins from environmental pollution.
  • Bacteria Contamination – Raw meat may harbor Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, and other pathogenic bacteria.
  • Allergies – Some parrots may be allergic or intolerant to certain proteins.
  • Choking Hazards – Bones, cartilage, tendons and meat pieces can pose choking risks if swallowed whole.
  • Nutritional Imbalances – Owners overdoing meat often neglect the critical plant foods needed for phytonutrients, fiber, antioxidants, etc.

To reduce risks, source high-quality, fresh, humanely raised meat whenever possible. Cook meat fully and dice it into tiny pieces. Supervise feedings and offer only a few small servings per week.

Feeding Recommendations

When feeding meat to your parrot, follow these tips:

  • Use fresh, chemical-free, humanely raised poultry, beef, fish. Organic and antibiotic-free is ideal.
  • Cook meat fully. Raw is risky. Bake, boil, or pan-cook to well-done temperatures.
  • Remove all bones, fat, gristle, and skin which can cause impactions.
  • Chop or shred into tiny, bite-sized pieces appropriate for the parrot’s size.
  • Offer just 1-2 times per week in a meal or forage toy. Meat is a treat, not a staple.
  • Introduce new meats slowly. Watch for signs of allergies or intolerance.
  • For nutrient balance, always accompany meat with plenty of vegetables, fruits, sprouted seeds, etc.

Examples of Meat Sources for Parrots

Here are some specific meat options along with the unique benefits of each:


Chicken supplies complete protein for development, niacin for energy, selenium for reproduction, and glucosamine for joints. Remove all fat, skin, and bones. Make sure poultry is antibiotic-free.


Turkey provides zinc for immunity, vitamin B6 for red blood cell function, and phosphorus for bones/eggshells. Chop finely and cook thoroughly. Avoid deli meats with added salt.


Fish like salmon are excellent sources of omega-3s DHA and EPA to support skin, feathers, joints, eyes, brain, and heart health. Buy sustainably caught seafood.


Lean grass-fed beef offers heme iron for oxygen transport, zinc for enzymes, and B-vitamins for nerves. Look for organic, pasture-raised sources when possible.


Whole egg provides protein for growth, choline to aid fat metabolism, and lutein for vision. Prepare hard-boiled and grate a small piece with a shell.

The variety ensures your parrot gains different trace minerals available in each protein source. Rotate options and keep servings infrequent and tiny for safety. Monitor for allergic reactions. With judicious use, meat can be a healthy supplemental addition to a parrot’s predominantly plant-based diet.

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Suitable Meat Options for Parrots

When sourcing meat for your parrot, focus on freshness, quality, and safety. Here are some suitable choices:

Insects and Grubs

Crickets, mealworms, waxworms, and other feeder insects make excellent treats. They offer natural protein, fat, and vitamins and mimic wild foraging. Ensure any insects are pesticide-free.

Cooked Poultry and Lean Meats

Chicken, turkey, lean beef, bison, and wild game meats are healthy options when cooked thoroughly to kill bacteria. Remove all fat, skin, bones, and seasonings.


Low-mercury fish like salmon, cod, tilapia, sardines, and shrimp supply beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Buy sustainable wild caught or raised organically.

Small whole fish like smelt can be fed raw if frozen for 2 weeks to kill parasites. Otherwise, always cook fish fully to avoid parasites.

Meats to Avoid for Parrots

On the flip side, these meats should be avoided:

  • Fatty meats like bacon, sausage, ribs
  • Fried or processed meats like nuggets or deli slices
  • Raw meats which may contain bacteria
  • Spoiled, rotten, or contaminated meats
  • Heavily seasoned meats

Preparing and Serving Meat Safely

Follow these tips for preparing meat:

  • Wash hands and prep area thoroughly before handling raw meat
  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils just for meat
  • Cook to minimum safe internal temperatures
  • Chop/shred into tiny pieces appropriate for the parrot’s size
  • Mix into chop mixtures or hide inside foraging toys
  • Refrigerate leftovers for no more than 3-4 days

Can Parrots Eat Corned Beef?

In moderation, small pieces of lean corned beef are safe for parrots and provide an excellent source of protein, iron, and B-vitamins. Look for low-sodium, nitrate-free options. Drain and rinse brined meats before use. Cook fully until no pink remains. Dice cooked corned beef into tiny pieces to mix into a veggie chop.

Meat Recipes for Parrots

If offering meat, go very slowly with tiny amounts to gauge tolerance. Some balanced recipe ideas include:

  • Meat-Veggie Pasta: Mix minute chicken shreds into whole grain pasta with broccoli, carrots, and bean sauce.
  • Meat-Stuffed Peppers: Finely chop chicken and mix with rice and veggies then stuff into pepper halves before baking.
  • Chicken Salad Sticks: Shred a small chicken piece and combine it with chopped apple, celery, and chickpeas. Serve in lettuce leaf wraps.
  • Meaty Power Bowl: Top quinoa and roasted veggies with a sprinkling of shredded turkey for protein.
  • Chicken Veggie Skewers: Skewer cubes of chicken with softened vegetables and lightly grilled.


While meat can provide beneficial protein and nutrients, a parrot’s anatomy and physiology are designed for digesting primarily plant-based foods. Meat should comprise only a very small portion of their diet if any at all.

When introduced slowly in tiny amounts with proper monitoring, lean meats may be tolerated. But a diet focused on quality vegetable protein sources, whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables is ideal for providing complete nutrition while optimizing digestion. With a few judicious additions like meat on rare occasions, variety can enhance a parrot’s mealtime without compromising their health.

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