Warning over turkey fat

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CHRISTMAS is coming and the goose is getting fat, but the RSPB is warning that fat from our Christmas turkey is not suitable for certain hungry mouths.

You might think putting the leftovers from your roasting tins outside for the birds would be as beneficial to them as other fats like lard and suet. However, cooked turkey fat is extremely dangerous to birds and could even kill them.

Sophie McCallum, RSPB south east media officer, said: “It’s understandable that people think it will give the birds an energy boost and provide them with the nutrients they need. Often people pour the fat onto bird tables or mix it with seed to make fat balls.

“But the juices mixed in roasting tins will go off very quickly and could cause disease on bird tables. Birds are very susceptible at this time of year. Turkey fat could also damage birds’ feathers and during winter they need to be in tip top condition to help keep them warm.”

Cooked turkey fat is completely unsuitable for birds for several reasons: *It stays soft even when cooled, meaning it could smear onto birds’ feathers and ruin water proofing and insulating qualities.

*The softness of turkey fat means it’s not practical to make popular ‘bird cake’ where it’s mixed with seeds, as it will not harden to hold its shape

*Many people rub turkey joints liberally with salt to crisp the skin and high levels of salt are toxic to birds

*The fat in roasting tins can’t be separated from other leftover liquids like meat juices. This concoction can go rancid quickly, and form an ideal breeding ground for salmonella and other food poisoning bacteria. Birds are prone to bacterial infections at this time of year as their defences and energy levels are low because of the cold.

Sophie added: “It’s great that so many people want to try and give birds extra treats but in this case you could be doing more harm than good.

“Don’t let this put you off feeding garden birds though – there are loads of other leftovers that are suitable.”

The RSPB recommends scraps like Christmas cake crumbs, mince pie pastry crumbs and biscuit crumbs. Other suitable leftovers include mild grated cheese, cooked or uncooked rice, dry porridge oats, cooked potatoes and fruit.

The cooking juices from all other meats as well as turkey are equally as unsuitable for feeding to garden birds.

The RSPB recommends that the best way to dispose of meat fat is to leave it to cool down and put it in the bin, not pour it down the sink.

To shop for RSPB bird care products including suet balls and feeders, visit www.rspbshop.co.uk