Q: Can ferrets eat hamburger meat, or raw beef as a treat?
A: Stay away from raw hamburger for ferrets, because there is a high likelihood of bacterial contamination. If you are just thinking of how to treat them, ferrets can eat healthy meat and cooked chicken, turkey and game … burgers are not healthy meat.
Good Cuts of Meats for Ferrets Include:
- chunks of beef,
- beef by-products (select vital organ meats),
- beef muscle meat,
- chicken breast, chicken thighs, drumsticks,
- finely ground meaty beef bones, fortified with vitamins and minerals (ash and taurine are natural derivatives)
- a small amount of venison
- beef and chicken liver
- whole game hens
- and some turkey
These meats helps them keep their jaws and teeth clean (while ground beef does not). Raw meaty and thick bones (not ground meat), will help keep the teeth clean, as they require ripping and tearing for consumption.
Most ferrets love chicken / ground beef as an occasional treat / pork organs and bones. As a treat, sometimes I offer my ferret beef rib steak, or a small piece (cooked) hamburger or fish.
How to Make Your Own Raw Ferret Food
- Visit the butcher for high meat quality. Ask him to cut everything in half-inch cubes with organs included (chicken heart / liver / stomach and beef kidneys). Make sure they are in equal-size pieces and ground together. I buy pieces of rabbit, duck, various pieces of heart, liver, whole quail, etc. Raw lamb bones are also good – you don’t need to feed them 100% human grade meat products. Ferrets are designed to eat mostly muscle meats, and offal should probably only represent a small part of their diet.
- Grind your meat and some vegetables in a food processor or blender – do not buy pre-blended processed foods. Processed foods = ground raw food (including things which aren’t part of a normal ferrets diet), which has been heated to such high temperatures that all the nutrients are diminished or destroyed.
- Add the vegetables. Vegetable mince can and should be mixed with meat to enhance its flavor and get more muscle meat into the ferret; up to 50% of your food’s volume may be of ground beef or other meat minced up. A good example of a veggie/meat mix is 1lb kale, 2LB summer squash, 1 banana bunch, 1 lb green beans, 12 ounces cod liver oil, 6 eggs (or peanuts with shells) 2 heads garlic, minced 3 tablespoons of algae mix, 12 oz cheese or yogurt (or 2 cups of goat milk if available), and 3-4 pounds of beef.
- Mix liver, chicken and beef, protein powders, and food multivitamin powder, ground flax, salmon oil, or whatever type of protein you have on hand to make it fun. When you use raw hamburger, take a little bit of minced meat, cook it on a “rare” setting (or cook to when it’s light pink), and cool and let your ferrets eat it.
- Add the taurine. Whenever you make ferret food, supplement vitamins like taurine. I mix ground taurine tablets with some Whiskas Kitamins tablets and dried eggs, using a mill for the kids. They might get a teaspoon full of the mixture every 2-3 days (instead of liquid vitamins or powder vitamins / mineral depending on the food mixture of taurine powder). Tablets are also easily crushed with a rolling pin, when double-bagged.
- To serve: re-hydrate the food, or mix it with some freeze-dried cod or salmon oil, pumpkin and ground ducks bravo basic formula, separating the meat and bones before your let your ferret eat it. If the ferret will not eat for any reason, try taking beef, cook well, add water and place in a food processor or blender until liquefied.
- After that, keep them on a chicken and turkey breast or ground beef diet for about a week and then slowly introduce the bone (as they will have to learn how to properly chew it). Finely ground bone is used to balance the diet so the respective proportions of minerals are present, such as calcium and phosphorus.
NOTE: Adding taurine to your ground mix is optional. But if you’re feeding a freeze-dried raw or frozen, ground diet, and several weeks at a time have passed without giving dark chicken meat, or heart, or taurine fortified in a commercial treat / food, I recommend keeping a bottle of 500 mg capsules of taurine in the house.
Bacterial Infection from Raw Beef
Ground beef is more processed and has much more surface area than a steak, even when shaped into a piece of “steak”. Hamburger is a collection of many components and bacteria, which is pushed into the center of the meat.
Ground beef contains meat from cows areas that contains parasites, and so must be cooked to a certain temperature to kill parasites that may be harmful to ferrets. In addition, pieces of meat used for minced beef are more susceptible to infection by the bacteria ecoli, so before giving the raw burger to a ferret it must be cooked to kill that off as well. Escherichia coli (E. coli EC0157 AKA) are coliform (which means that they are faecal) and ground beef, due to process it goes through, is more likely to be contaminated.
When cooking pieces of ground beef, the internal temperature should reach 170 degrees, which is high enough to kill all bacteria. While it may not be of great significance for the ferrets, which eat live prey anyways, it’s something that those who feed a ground raw diet should consider.
Healthy meat for ferrets
In the wild ferrets are true carnivores – and even though they are domesticated, meat should still be their main nutrition source. Ferrets are carnivores, so you can feed them raw chicken, veal and beef.
Ferrets also need some fat in their diet for energy, so feed them fatty cuts of beef, and make sure the meat you feed them is none too lean.
If you raw feed the ferret, make sure they get chicken thighs, pork in various cuts, and beefsteak in various cuts. Mine do not like ground beef, but stewing steak works well.
I feed my ferrets (in random order) beef with chicken and chicken liver, beef heart, skirts beef, catfish, ground turkey, pork, pork ribs, and roast beef cheeck. I buy what is on sale and in bulk when I can.
And for the requirement of meat, you can use a commercial ground food like aunt Jeni’s, which still has bones and meat, but also stomachs, etc, instead of buying them in the store (I like doing it this way because if you’re not careful, You can overdose on minerals in organs.
Raw Feeding Our Ferret Friends
If it’s a raw meat diet that you want your ferret to follow, and then make sure that you give the ferret a lot of raw meat (day-old chicks is not sufficient in itself, so change to ground beef, wings (including bones), rabbits, liver, heart, etc., all of which are good for ferrets (do not provide the liver more than once a week, as much vitamin A can build in their own liver), and that the meat is fresh, is provided and stored safely.
For optimal health, ferrets need a good quality ferret kibble diet available 24/7, supplemented with meat products such as raw beef mince, raw chicken legs and wings (the bones are very good for teeth but MUST be raw, cooked bones will splinter) and small amounts of liver etc.