Can Chickens Eat Beef: Risks and Benefits

Raw Beef Cuts on White Plate (image by joon2079, Pixabay)

Article Summary

  • Chickens can eat beef, as it provides high-quality protein, healthy fats, iron, zinc, B vitamins, and other nutrients beneficial for their health and egg production.
  • The risks of feeding beef to chickens include potential bacterial contamination, digestive issues from excessive fat, the risk of splintering bones, obesity, and food poisoning.
  • Avoiding raw beef, feeding cooked beef in moderation, ensuring proper handling and cooking, and removing bones and fat trimmings before feeding are recommended when offering beef to chickens.

Chickens can absolutely eat beef in moderation. While chickens are naturally omnivores and will eat almost anything, beef can be a healthy and beneficial addition to their diet when fed properly. However, there are some risks and things to consider before feeding beef to backyard chickens. This article will explore whether chickens can eat different types of beef, the benefits and potential risks, and proper feeding guidelines.

Is it Safe for Chickens to Eat Beef?

Eating beef is generally safe for chickens. In fact, beef contains lots of protein, fat, iron, zinc, B vitamins, and other nutrients that can be beneficial for chicken health and egg production. The main risk with feeding beef is that it can harbor bacteria like E. coli or salmonella.

To reduce risk, only feed chickens cooked beef that has been handled properly. Never feed raw beef or spoiled leftovers. Also, limit high-fat meats, which can cause digestive upset.

What are the Benefits of Feeding Beef to Chickens?

Some of the key benefits of feeding beef to backyard chickens in moderation include:

  • High-quality protein for muscle development and egg production
  • Healthy fats for energy and vitamin absorption
  • Iron for healthy blood and prevention of anemia
  • Zinc, B vitamins, and other nutrients for overall health
  • Added variety to diet to prevent boredom or nutritional deficiencies


Beef is a good source of complete nutrition for chickens. It provides a different protein and fat source compared to standard chicken feed or other treats.

Are There Any Risks with Feeding Beef to Chickens?

There are a few potential risks to keep in mind when feeding beef to chickens:

  • Raw or undercooked beef may contain harmful bacteria
  • Too much fat can cause diarrhea or liver problems
  • Beef bones can splinter and cause internal puncture wounds
  • Beef fed in excess can lead to obesity and related health issues
  • Spoiled or rotten beef can cause food poisoning

As long as you follow proper storage, handling, cooking, and portion guidelines, these risks can be minimized. Moderation is key when incorporating beef into a chicken’s diet.

Can Chickens Eat Raw Beef?

It’s not recommended to feed chickens raw, uncooked beef. Raw meat is more likely to contain pathogens like salmonella, E. coli, or other bacteria that can make chickens sick.

Raw meat is more likely to contain harmful pathogens…

Cook beef fully to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before feeding it to chickens to kill any potential bacteria.

Can Chickens Eat Cooked Beef?

Yes, chickens can safely eat fully cooked beef as part of a balanced diet. Cooked beef offers chickens a tasty source of protein, healthy fats, and important vitamins and minerals.

Steak in a Grill (image by gepharts3d, Pixabay)
Grilled Beef

Remove all bones and fat trimmings first and cut cooked beef into bite-size pieces for chickens. Feed cooked beef in moderation 2-3 times per week at most.

Can Chickens Eat Beef Stew?

Homemade beef stew can make a nutritious supplemental feed for chickens. Beef stew provides moisture along with shredded beef protein, vegetables, and broth. Allow any stew with onions or garlic to cool completely before feeding to avoid toxicity issues. Check for small bones and remove them first. Feed small portions of leftover stew no more than once or twice a week.

Can Chickens Eat Beef Scraps?

Cooked beef scraps are fine for chickens but avoid overly fatty trimmings, which can cause GI upset. Deli-style roast beef, meatballs, beef tips, or small shredded pieces of pot roast make good beef scrap treats. Rinse off any sauces and seasonings. Beef scraps should be an occasional treat, not a dietary staple.

Can Chickens Eat Beef Jerky?

Beef jerky makes a great high-protein treat for chickens. The beef is already cooked and dehydrated, making it very shelf-stable. Look for all-natural jerky without added spices, MSG, or excess sodium. Tear jerky into smaller pieces so it’s easy for chickens to eat. Feed jerky to chickens sparingly, a few pieces 1-2 times per week.

Beef Jerky on a Black Tray (image by valenciamarkyv69, Pixabay)
Beef Jerky

Can Chickens Eat Beef Fat?

It’s best to avoid feeding chickens excessive amounts of beef fat. Too much fat, especially saturated fat, can lead to digestive issues, diarrhea, or liver problems. Small amounts of cooked beef fat trimmed from cuts of meat are ok. But don’t purposefully feed chickens hunks of suet, fat trimmings, beef tallow, or greasy leftovers.

Can Chickens Eat Beef Liver?

Beef liver is very rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. But it’s also higher in fat so only feed occasionally. Cook beef liver fully until firm but not overcooked. Chop into quarter-size pieces and feed a few small portions 1-2 times per month. Beef liver makes a great treat for laying hens.

Can Chickens Eat Beef Bones?

It’s not recommended to feed large beef bones to chickens. Small, soft beef bones may be ok if stewed thoroughly but still pose a choking hazard. For safety, avoid giving chickens any type of bone to peck at or ingest. Instead, cook bones to make stock for added nutrition in cooked grains, vegetables, or scrambled eggs fed to chickens.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Beef?

Beef should not be fed to baby chicks under 4-6 weeks old. Young chicks cannot properly digest beef and lack the gut bacteria needed to process meat proteins and fats. Wait until chicks are fully feathered and active outside on pasture before introducing cooked, bite-size beef scraps into their diet. Avoid overfeeding beef to prevent digestive upset.

Dwarf Cochin Hen and Chicks on Grass (image by Pixel-mixer, Pixabay)
Dwarf Cochin Hen and Chicks

To wrap up, chickens can safely enjoy beef in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Be sure to only feed chickens cooked beef, avoiding fatty excesses or overfeeding. Following proper handling and portion guidelines will allow chickens to benefit from the nutrition of beef safely. Beef can add valuable protein, fats, and nutrients to round out backyard chickens’ daily menu.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should chickens eat beef?

Chickens are omnivores and can consume small amounts of cooked beef as part of a balanced diet. However, it should not be the primary source of their nutrition. Offering cooked, lean beef in moderation can provide additional protein, but it’s crucial to ensure their diet includes a diverse range of nutrients from various sources.

Can I feed my chickens beef fat?

Feeding chickens small amounts of beef fat is generally acceptable. However, it’s important to offer it in moderation and as part of a well-balanced diet. Too much fat can lead to health issues, so ensure that the majority of their nutrition comes from a mix of grains, vegetables, and protein sources.

Can chickens eat shredded beef?

Yes, chickens can eat shredded beef in moderation. Ensure the beef is cooked and free from excessive seasoning. Shredded beef can be a good source of protein for chickens, but it should be provided as a supplement to their primary diet, which should consist mainly of poultry feed, grains, and vegetables.

Can chickens eat cooked minced beef?

Cooked minced beef can be fed to chickens in small amounts. It’s essential to ensure the beef is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t contain any additives or excessive seasonings that might be harmful to chickens. As with other meat-based treats, moderation is key to maintaining a healthy and balanced diet for the chickens.

Can I feed chickens beef liver?

Feeding chickens small amounts of cooked beef liver can be beneficial as it is a rich source of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. However, it should only be given in moderation as part of a varied diet. Too much organ meat, including beef liver, may upset the balance of nutrients, so it’s essential to provide a well-rounded feed that includes grains and vegetables.