If you like edamame, you might be wondering whether you can feed any leftovers to birds, or use these beans as a food source for pet birds.
Beans can often be useful additions to a bird’s diet, for the protein they can provide. But are these immature soybeans among the beans that birds can eat?
Edamame beans can indeed be healthy additions to a bird’s diet. But should only be served shelled from the pods, and boiled or steamed.
What is Edamame?
Edamame is the name for immature soybeans in the pod. Soybeans, Glycine max, are a species of legume that is native to East Asia, but which can be and is grown in many parts of the world.
Soybeans are an important protein source for feeding farm animals. Unfortunately, the practices of the soy industry are often hugely detrimental to people and our planet.
When purchasing, eating or feeding edamame or soy, or any soya products, there is a range of environmental issues to consider. Sadly, soy production plays a major role in habitat loss and deforestation.
Against this, however, we can weigh up how soy products can help us reduce meat consumption, which is the main driver of deforestation globally. Feeding soy to people is far preferable to feeding it to livestock. But around 80% of the global soybean crop is currently used to feed livestock.
Growing edamame/soybeans at home could be one way to cut your global impact, and eat a more earth-conscious diet yourself.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that small alterations to our lifestyles can be the very best thing we can do to aid and protect the birds we love so much in our gardens.
Can Birds Eat Edamame Beans?
Interestingly, edamame is healthy for us and it can be just as healthy for birds. Edamame beans can be a healthy supplement to the diet of wild birds, backyard flocks, and pet birds.
However, it is important to note that edamame beans can only be fed in specific ways. So make sure you read on to learn what is and is not safe to feed before you decide to offer leftovers or use these beans as food for birds:
How to Feed Edamame To Birds
When it comes to feeding edamame – young soybeans – to birds, there are a few caveats. In brief:
- Feed only the shelled beans, not the pods.
- Don’t serve the beans raw.
- Boil or steam the shelled beans before serving.
Can Birds Eat Edamame Pods?
Edamame still in the pods should not be served to birds because these pods can be a choking hazard for several birds – especially pet birds.
Can Birds Eat Edamame Beans Raw?
Once the shelled beans have been removed from the pods, it is important to note that they do have to be cooked before they can be served. Raw beans cannot be eaten because they contain a compound called goitrogens, which can interfere with the function of the thyroid.
The toxin contained within the raw beans, goitrin, can disrupt the thyroid gland’s ability to function causing health problems like weight gain, and feather loss, and even leading to death in extreme cases. So never feed raw edamame beans to birds.
Can Birds Eat Cooked Edamame Beans?
Once the shelled beans have been cooked, however, they are fine to eat and can be a great supplemental food source for birds, used in addition to more common bird foods.
They provide plenty of protein for birds, as well as vitamins, and minerals including vitamin C, iron, and calcium. They are a healthy source of protein, low in fat and calories, and can help provide a varied and balanced diet.
Edamame beans are 73% water, 12% protein, 9% carbohydrates, and 5% fat. They provide rich amounts of dietary fiber, folate, manganese, and vitamin K.
To prepare and cook the beans, remove them from their pods and boil them for 3-5 minutes, or steam them for just a little longer.
You can then serve them either whole or mashed up depending on the specific bird or birds that you are trying to feed.
Remember, supplemental foods like this should always be given in moderation, alongside plenty of other varied foods to meet all the nutritional needs of the bird in question.
Is Leftover Edamame Always Okay For Birds?
One thing to note if you have leftover edamame is that, while the cooked shelled beans alone are fine for birds, cooked edamame may contain high levels of salt, which may not be a healthy option for birds.
In Japan, edamame is usually blanched in 4% salt water for 5 minutes. So if you have used a lot of salt in preparation, feeding this to birds is best avoided as birds cannot metabolize salt properly.
Growing Edamame in the US Garden
If you would like edamame/soybeans for yourself and your family, or to feed to birds, then growing your own is a far more eco-friendly and sustainable choice than purchasing it. Since when you buy it, it is often challenging to find out where it has come from, and what harm may have been done in its production.
Edamame can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 7-10, and sometimes in cooler zones within a greenhouse or tunnel or with some protection.
This plant needs full sun and reasonably moist soil. It can be useful to grow in a garden because, like other legumes, it is nitrogen fixing – helping to maintain long-term fertility in your growing areas.
If you cannot grow soybeans where you live, there are of course other legumes to consider. But you and the birds will likely both enjoy eating the immature soybeans as edamame before they reach full maturity.