NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — With thousands of animals in their care, you can imagine preparing the food at Nashville Zoo is quite the job.

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

“We go roughly through about 3,000 pounds of food a week. That doesn’t include the pounds of hay and stuff that we get. So, it’s a lot of food,” said Sierra McKinney, Diet Technician for the zoo.

Plus, the menus portray a wide variety of diets, from meat for the big cats to bugs for the birds.

“Our tigers get roughly about five pounds of that each,” McKinney pointed at a pile of food. “Along with like various cold prey and stuff.”  

She also showed us food prepared for the insects in their care. “This is our bug delivery that we get on a weekly basis. And we get about 14,000 crickets in a week. So, that’s about 700,000 a year roughly.”

McKinney and her fellow diet technicians prepare more than 200 types of diets each day for the zoo creatures. They prepare ahead for the next day so when the zoo keepers arrive each morning food is ready for the animals.

McKinney explained the types of food can be broken down into three categories. “We have our meat diets, and then we have our produce diets, and also grain portions, which is just solely the grain that the animal needs.”

When it comes to produce, she said the animals get nothing but the vest.

“We get all of our produce from a company called Creation Garden, and it is restaurant quality food. Most of the restaurants around the area, that’s where they get their food from.”

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

There is no underestimating how important the job of a diet technician is for the zoo. The animals’ nutrition impacts how healthy they are, how well they can fight off illness and how they can reproduce.

Besides day-to-day meals, zoo veterinarians and nutritionists often request a special diet for reasons like weight gain or weight loss, or for taking medicine.

“There are sometimes our animals get picky, especially with meds that they have to take.  So, the keepers come in, and we work with them. They’ll come and they’ll ask for different fruits or something that they can try that the animal may not get on a daily basis,” said McKinney.

The next time you see the animals eating at the zoo, just think about what it takes to prepare it all.

News 2 has partnered with Nashville Zoo to bring you weekly segments of Zoopalooza. You can watch them on News 2 on Good Morning Nashville on Saturday and right here on WKRN.com.

What creature would you like to see featured on Zoopalooza? Email us at pix@wkrn.com