Greg Harrison grew up in a rural community in Iowa and received his DVM degree from Iowa State University in 1967. He established his own private small animal practice in Florida in 1969, and his professional interests involved a wide variety of species, including a stint with zoo animals at Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach. When a chlamydiosis outbreak occurred in a large aviculture/pet shop facility in 1973, he was called upon to help resolve this, and his specific passion for pet bird species began.
Heavy importation of pet birds into the USA was occurring at that time, and he was instrumental in introducing endoscopic examination of monomorphic pet bird species for sex determination. Because of this physical contact with a large number of bird species, he began to notice that individuals that had been in captivity for some time were no longer bright, beautiful and healthy-looking. Plus, reproductive results were spotty at best.
Captive birds at that time were fed primarily sunflower seeds, so he began to experiment with various dietary formulas to try to improve their health. After consulting with successful aviculturists and avian nutritionists, a line of formulated foods was developed. Because of the high metabolic rate of birds and their sensitivity to pesticides and other chemical toxins in the environment, the exclusive use of certified organic ingredients became part of the program.
The carefully compounded foods, which were initially used in a clinical trial to improve the breeding results of a group of hyacinth macaws, became the basis for Harrison's Bird Foods, the world's first organic formulated pet food.
From the original development of bakery-produced "cakes" to the current ethically sourced and produced extruded nuggets, slight variations in the ingredients have been made over the years based on clinical results and research in a variety of avian species. But the constant goal has always been to produce the best product for longevity and overall health of the avian patient, whether during growth, egg-laying, molt, illness or adult maintenance.
Some specialized ingredients have found their way into the formulations:
Spirulina is a bluegreen algae that serves as an exceptional source of natural precursors to vitamin A (carotenoids) and other functions, including supporting immune strength, healing of digestive, nervous and respiratory systems, and serving as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Psyllium is a high fiber mucopolysaccharide that creates a matrix for intestinal bacteria to colonize; it enhances absorption of nutrients and binds toxins and allergens. The psyllium gel decreases the GI transit time, thereby increasing feed efficiency and lowering volume consumed while firming stool. The gel acts as a healing bandage for gastrointestinal irritations and offers a preferential energy source to intestinal cells that stimulate their growth. As in humans, the gel matrix decreases blood sugar levels and various fat metabolic compounds, lowering the incidence of hypercholesterolemia. It also increases absorption calcium if the other factors are such as D3 in alignment.
Montmorillonite clay is added as a natural binding to hold the ground ingredients together during the extrusion process, which "bakes" the product for palatability and longer shelf life. The clay is the same as that eaten by parrots in the wild to bind toxins and add minerals and trace minerals to the diet. It also acts as a natural antibiotic to decrease bacterial infections.
But the primary commitment in Harrison's Bird Foods is based on using only whole ingredients - not parts or bits or leftovers from other manufacturing.
Dr. Harrison continues as President of HBD, which was incorporated in 1988 as the producer and distributor of Harrison's Bird Foods.