How the Nashville Zoo Prepares Meals for Thousands of Animals

Nashville, Tennessee (WKRN) — With thousands of animals in their care, you can imagine preparing meals at the Nashville Zoo is a daunting task.

News 2 had a chance to go behind the scenes and see how it’s done.

“We consume about 3,000 pounds of food a week. That doesn’t include a few pounds of hay or anything like that. So that’s a lot of food,” said the zoo’s diet tech. Sierra McKinney said.

Additionally, the menu depicts a variety of meals, from meat for big cats to worms for birds.

“Our tigers eat about five pounds each,” McKinney said, pointing to the pile of food. “With various cold prey”

She also showed me the food prepared for the insects she was caring for. “This is the bug delivery we get every week. We have about 14,000 crickets a week. So that’s roughly about 700,000 a year.”

McKinney and her fellow diet techs prepare more than 200 meals each day for the zoo’s critters. They make sure food is ready for the animals when the zoo keepers arrive each morning in preparation for the next day.

McKinney explained that food types can be divided into three categories. “We eat a meat diet, then a produce diet, and then a grain portion, which is only the grains that the animal needs.”

When it comes to produce, she said, animals only get the best.

“We source all our ingredients from a company called Creation Garden and it’s restaurant quality food. Most restaurants in the area source their food from there.”

She continued, “These animals really eat better than I do!”

It is impossible to underestimate how important the work of animal husbandry technicians is to zoos. Animal nutrition affects an animal’s health, its ability to fight disease, and its ability to reproduce.

Zoo veterinarians and nutritionists often request special diets in addition to their daily diet, for reasons such as weight gain or weight loss, or taking medications.

“Our animals can be picky, especially about the medicines they have to take. So the keepers come and we work with them. I would ask them to be able to try something they might not be able to eat,” McKinney said.

Next time you see animals eating at the zoo, think about what it would take to get everything ready.

News 2 has partnered with the Nashville Zoo to bring you a weekly segment of Zoopalooza. You can see them on Saturday’s Good Morning Nashville News 2 and here at

What creature would you like to see in Zooparooza? Email us at [email protected]

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