Food Preparation

The staff and volunteers of the diet kitchen are responsible for preparing and packaging all of the diets fed to the animals at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. This includes washing, cutting, mixing and accurately weighing individual ingredients for each diet. This is a very time consuming process, as it takes the entire staff of the diet kitchen, plus numerous volunteers an entire day to prep a single day's worth of diets for the Zoo.

Produce, including fresh fruits and vegetables, are purchased and delivered weekly and stored in large walk-in coolers. Our raw meat diets and fish, are delivered frozen, every six to eight weeks.

The diet kitchen is essentially an area of large quantity food production. On a weekly basis, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium feeds out approximately:
  • 25 bushels of apples
  • 1,200 pounds of bananas
  • 650 heads of lettuce
  • 2,500 pounds meat
  • 1,260 hard boiled eggs
Diets for the animals vary and are formulated on an individual basis by the nutritionist to meet or exceed known nutrient requirements or recommendations. Every diet and all subsequent changes to the diets are documented and recorded.  Here are a few examples of animal diets:
  • Polar Bear Diet: Every day, the polar bears is fed a diet consisting of a high quality dog food, raw beef carnivore meat diet, variety of fish and fresh produce consuming approximately 20 pounds of food daily.
  • Silverback Male Gorillas Diet:Silverback male gorillas consume a diet of approximately 12-13 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables every day. They readily consume carrots, celery, cabbage, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges, bananas, green peppers, mixed greens and some oatmeal. Our apes are often trained and treated with sugar free jello.
  • Cat Diet:The cats in the Cat Complex are all fed a raw beef carnivore diet. This raw meat diet was formulated to meet the known nutrient requirements of domestic cats. Our great cats are all fasted twice per week. Our adult male lion is fed 14 pounds of this raw meat diet five days per week. The cats are frequently given bones for enrichment.