May I introduce you to a product I designed in 1988 and have manufactured continuously since? I have always felt that the time a bird spends feeding in our yards is the period of greatest jeopardy. The time the bird spends at the feeder must be worth the birds’ effort and exposure. So my products are made of highest quality ingredients that deliver that food value in a brief and harried visit.
My Oregon Suet Block™ was the first insect based wild bird food produced anywhere in the world. It was formulated this way because the woodpeckers I feed are insectivores that also thrive on non-insect sourced animal fat. I integrated the highest quality cattle fat available, beef kidney suet knobs, with the insects I grow for the purpose of augmenting avian diets, Musca domestica, the Common Housefly.
“Beef kidney suet knobs” are among the hardest and most stable animal fat commonly available. It costs about five times as much as ordinary tallow. I can’t see using cheap ingredients with my valuable insects. Top suet has a higher caloric density than the cheaper and more commonly used tallows that are a mixture of all of the fat of the beef. Tallow is the fat component of common and thrift suet cakes. I coined the use of the term “suet block” to point out the difference from suet cake products. Suet block has now become widely used to connote high quality. For years my firm has purchased fresh kidney suet knobs that are rendered and processed in our own specialized equipment.
The humble insect I culture and use as a nutrient, Musca domestica, The Common Housefly, is ubiquitous and is the most widely distributed organism that is visible to the unaided human eye. In 1975 I discovered that this insect could be adapted to intense husbandry to provide nutrients for other animals.
The Housefly is the best feeder insect being grown anywhere in the world. Its nutrient profile is more useful than that of the more commonly used crickets and meal worms. But it’s use suffers from the stigma associated with the word “maggot”. The maggot is viewed as unclean when in fact it is the cleaning agent. The pigs used in medical research are more clean than most of the planet’s human population but the ordinary, easy, glib use of “pig” is to connote filth because of its environment. Similar popular misconception of the maggot stifles its use in some very useful applications. Unlike the pig who creates and lounges in his pile the maggot can actively convert the microorganisms growing there into usable nutrients. The fly maggots don’t eat manure and decaying offal. They eat the bacteria and yeast that are degrading the waste. In my husbandry operations the insects never come in contact with offal of any kind since bacteria needed to degrade animal matter may be harmful to birds if the insects are fed out alive. This cautionary measure is standard for my insect products, live or processed, regardless of ultimate use. My larvae are grown in the vegetable waste we get from well fed dairy cows, their fresh manure. The larvae take less than a week to mature and so voraciously consume the bacteria and yeasts that the resulting detritus is fluffy and smells mildly of greenhouse.
Together these ingredients make the classic Oregon Suet Block and the companion suet products. Although these products cost more than you are likely used to paying they are considered to be an economical buy. Besides being nutritionally superior they last three to four times longer with the same use because the quality of the dense, hard fat used. The firmness prevents the blocks breaking and falling to the ground. Over the years, as insect yields increased from my grow beds, I have steadily increased their percentage in OSB.