Lesson in witch hazels
Organic broccoli: is it really better for you?

Rock in your (expensive) bird seed?

Sunflowers grown for their seed. Image ©GardenPhotos.com (all rights reserved)
Last winter I posted about the cost of sunflower seed, the black oil sunflower seed that is such a favorite with so many of our garden birds. In our friendly local Farm Plus farm supply store a 40lb bag cost $18.96 (47 cents per pound). Later, in the summer, they gave up selling it – they were so outraged by a huge price hike that they refused to stock it. So we bought the less oil-rich striped seed instead.

Yesterday, in a bird seed supply emergency (OK, bad planning), I ran out to our nearby small independent pet store for seed – their black oil sunflower seed cost $58.29 for a 50lb bag ($1.17 per pound). More than twice the price of less than a year ago!

But there’s another interesting point. Some time during the summer I picked up a bag of black oil sunflower seed somewhere else. I can’t remember what it cost, in this case that’s not the point – it was the ingredients. You’d think a bag of black oil sunflower seed would contain, well, black oil sunflower seed. Not so fast: Pennington Classic Black Oil Sunflower Seed contains: Sunflower Seed, Vitamin A supplement, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Potassium iodide and Vegetable Oil.

Battling for bird seed. Image ©GardenPhotos.com (all rights reserved)Here’s my question: What’s the point of adding vitamins? These added vitamins only be on the outside of the seed coat, the part most birds drop on the ground! What’s more, the Pennington website says their black oil sunflower seed is “fruit flavored?! This is not bird care, it’s marketing.

But then I find, over on the Cole's Wild Bird Products webpage headed Bird Seed Myths, they make it very clear that wild birds don’t need supplements. They also reveal how, exactly, these supplements are added:
“…the most common way for companies to add “vitamins” to their products is to simply coat it with mineral oil and add crushed rock. (They add rock!!!) Current regulations allow a manufacturer to list the nutritional components of mineral oil (iron, zinc) and crushed rock (Vitamin A, calcium carbonate) separately, which can make the birdseed ingredients look more impressive than they really are… and of course the crushed rock adds weight to the final product.”

Amazing isn’t it. Crushed rock…

Now I’ve no idea if the good people at Pennington add rock to their sunflower seed or not but I suppose the answer to all these issues is to grow your own. Perhaps we would if we had a big sunny patch in which to grow it. But it’s pointless growing sunflowers under our trees; they’re called sunflowers for a reason, after all.