Is it OK to Add Bacon Fat to Bird Suet?

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Is bacon fat safe to add to bird suet? Find out what the birding experts say, plus get tips on better alternatives to mix into your suet.

Is Bacon Fat Safe for Bird Suet?

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Downy and red-bellied woodpeckers on a suet feeder

Question: Can I use birdseed mixed with leftover bacon fat in bird suet for my backyard visitors? —Clara Snyder of Joliet, Illinois

Kenn and Kimberly: Making your own suet can be rewarding, but there are a few important things to know before you begin. While lard is a safe alternative to rendered suet, avoid using bacon drippings. The chemical preservatives in commercial bacon become more concentrated once cooked. While this doesn’t pose a health threat to humans, it can be harmful to birds. Bread and table scraps should be avoided, too.

What can birds eat from the kitchen?

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Brown thrasher eating suet

Question: Why shouldn’t we put bread or bacon fat in homemade bird suet? —Carol Coburn of Longmont, Colorado

Kenn and Kimberly: We know it seems as if bacon grease should be OK, since it’s animal fat just like beef suet. But the preservatives in bacon contain carcinogenic compounds that are harmful to birds. When it comes to bread, it’s sort of like junk food for birds—it offers very little nutritional value for them. So if they consume it on a regular basis, the lack of nutrients causes vitamin deficiencies that lead to serious, even fatal health issues. With so many safe and healthy options for feeding birds, it’s best to avoid these two potentially harmful items.

Learn how to clean a suet cage bird feeder.

Safe Suet Alternatives

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Lard is a safe substitute for bacon fat

Many winter birds, including northern flickers, chickadees and nuthatches, appreciate suet for its high fat content. Peanut butter and pure lard are also healthy substitutes for bacon fat. When making suet, start with equal parts lard and peanut butter. Add safe ingredients such as dried fruit, rolled oats, birdseed, cornmeal and flour. Avoid bread, sugar, leftovers, meat, bacon fat and salted nuts.

You can also buy premade suet cakes that are easy and convenient to use.

Next, check out the best suet feeders for backyard birds.

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Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor's degree in agricultural and environmental communications from the University of Illinois. Lori enjoys growing vegetables and flowers for pollinators in her backyard gardens. She also is an avid bird-watcher.