Lafeber Company was built by a father-son team of veterinarians with a shared love of animals and a special passion for birds. Dr. T.J. Lafeber developed the very first commercial bird food pellet in the back room of his veterinary clinic in the early 1970s. Today, our recipes are developed by his son, Dr. Ted Lafeber, III, along with top veterinarians and nutritionists.
Our manufacturing facility has always been located on the Lafeber family farmland, and all of our products are mixed, formed and packaged under one roof. Staying true to our motto —“Caring and working for the health of animals” — we created Veterinary Resources to offer exotic animal veterinarians an every-growing library of vet-written articles, client education materials and videos. Helping Animals is our online networking community dedicated to nourishing and protecting animals and their worlds near and far. Pet Birds and Small Mammals are dedicated to pet owners and offers a wide variety of information on their beloved pets.
Our History: The Story of Pet Bird Food & Nutrition
The story of pet bird food & nutrition in America is, in many ways, the story of Dr. T.J. Lafeber and pet bird care in America. Dr. Lafeber graduated from the veterinary college of Iowa State University in 1949. Early on, much of his practice, in the suburbs of Chicago, was devoted to dog and cat medicine. In the early 1960’s, Dr. Lafeber was asked by the A.V.M.A. (American Veterinary Medicine Association) to chair their newly formed avian medicine committee. Dr. Lafeber agreed. For many years, in the late 60’s and early 70’s, Dr. Lafeber’s pet bird hospital was the largest in the United States.
As Dr. Lafeber treated hundreds of pet birds over a period of years, a common problem kept appearing: most birds he was treating were dying of malnutrition. Dr. Lafeber investigated the current bird foods on the market and soon discovered many bird owners had little opportunity to provide their birds with a nutritious diet. Most of the foods were simply various types of seed mixes, all of them deficient in certain vitamins, minerals, and protein.
In the early 1970’s, Dr. Lafeber began experimenting with a pelleted food for birds. Initially, he made the pellets on a small mill in the rear of his animal hospital. Gradually, he began dispensing the food to bird owners to improve their birds’ health. The results were very good. The vast majority of birds did very well on the new pelleted food.
In the late 1970’s, Dr. Lafeber bought five acres of Illinois farmland from his father. On this acreage, the Lafeber Company started to grow. Dr. Lafeber’s desire to provide pet birds with a high-quality, nutritious diet became the driving force behind the Lafeber Company. At first, pelleted food was the only thing manufactured. In the early ’80’s, however, Dr. Lafeber developed Nutri-Start baby bird food. Shortly after that, Avi-Cakes were introduced.
In the fall of 1990, Nutri-Berries hit the pet bird market. Nutri-Berries represented a giant leap for Lafeber Company. Nutri-Berries solved three major problems faced by all pet bird owners:
- nutritional completeness
- easy acceptance by the bird
- ease of feeding
Throughout the history of Lafeber Company, quality has been the key to success. Attention to the ingredients used in the pet bird food product line along with a strong focus on the needs of our customers have helped Lafeber Company establish a reputation as one of the premier companies in the pet food industry. Our mission to this day revolves around the simple premise Dr. Lafeber established many years ago: Caring & Working for the Health of Animals.
About Our Founder, Dr. Ted Lafeber II
Dr. T. J. Lafeber, Distinguished Veterinarian
1925 – 2001
T.J. Lafeber DVM was one of the worlds foremost authorities on pet bird care.
After his graduation from Iowa State University in 1949, Dr. Lafeber opened the Niles Animal Hospital. Pioneering achievements and dedication to bird care marked his career. He introduced intramuscular injections, blood panels and gavage feeding to save birds’ lives. To help solve the numerous nutritional problems seen in birds, he developed and produced the first pelleted companion bird diet which led to his founding of Lafeber Company in 1973.
Perhaps, above all, his love for bird medicine and caring changed the lives of many veterinarians. In fact, numerous veterinarians told him that they chose to practice avian medicine after attending one of his lectures.
His contributions include:
In 1960, Dr. Lafeber was named Chairman of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Committee on Avian Medicine and Surgery. He spoke at the national, state and local associations’ meetings; the World Veterinary Medical Association; and, the Society of Laboratory Animal Medicine.
As a result of his dedication to the veterinary community, he received many awards, including:
In 1970, the AAHA selected Dr. Lafeber for a special award in recognition of his contributions to the field of Avian Medicine and Clinical Laboratory Medicine. He also received the Iowa State Stange Award; England’s Melton Award; and, the University of Illinois Service Award. In 1975, he was named by the AAHA Region III as the Outstanding Practitioner of the year and, in 1988, received the prestigious Charles E. Bild Practitioner of the Year Award. Also, in 1988 he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Avian Veterinarians.
In 1985, after running his veterinary practice in Niles for 35 years, he sold it and moved to North Carolina where he spent much of his time working on the development of new products for the Lafeber Company.
A fund was created to continue Dr. Lafeber’s research regarding pet bird medicine, care and nutrition. All donations will be greatly appreciated and will be used solely to improve the lives of our beloved, feathered friends. If you wish to donate to this fund, please make your checks out to:
Dr. T.J. Lafeber Jr. Fund, UT
Mail checks to:
College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Tennessee
Dr. T.J. Lafeber Fund
P.O. Box 1071
Knoxville, TN 37901-1071
About Our President, Dr. Lafeber III
In 2004, Dr. Lafeber received the prestigious Outstanding Service Award from the Association of Avian Veterinarians in recognition of his commitment to the well-being of the avian population.
In 2007, Dr Lafeber received the prestigious President’s award from the Association of Avian Veterinarians in recognition of continued dedication to the health and welfare of the avian population.
Dr. Lafeber was especially honored because the same prestigious organization, the Association of Avian Veterinarians, had presented his father, Dr. Lafeber Sr. with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1988. This was fitting because Dr. Lafeber Sr. and Dr. Lafeber had always been very close throughout their lives.
Dr. Lafeber’s dedication to avian health and nutrition began at a very early age. At age 9, he would accompany his father, Dr Lafeber Sr., to his animal hospital to clean cages every Sunday. A few years later, at age 13, he learned how to run the bird pellet machine in the back of the Niles Animal Hospital. Dr. Lafeber Sr. created the first pelleted bird food.
In high school, Dr. Lafeber worked every summer, Saturday, Sunday and holiday at the animal hospital caring for birds, cat and dogs. His early interest in avian nutrition became clear when he created a nutrition spreadsheet for Lafeber Company when the personal computer first came out in the late 1970’s.
At Grinnell College, Dr. Lafeber majored in Chemistry and, in 1988, he earned his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University, the same school where his father received his veterinary degree thirty-nine years earlier.
After Dr. Lafeber received his DVM in 1988, Dr. Lafeber Sr. and Dr. Lafeber became close business partners. In early 1990, Dr. Lafeber became President of Lafeber Company and Dr. Lafeber Sr. became CEO.
In 1989, the father and son veterinary team developed Nutri-Berries. They designed Nutri-Berries to provide the nutritional balance of pellets, the taste appeal of seeds and the foraging enrichment experience that is found in the wild. Nutri-Berries continue to be a great success more than nineteen years later.
Both doctors also created the Tropical Fruit, Sunny Orchard, El Paso and Garden Veggie Nutri-Berries during the 1990’s.
Dr. Lafeber and the entire bird community were greatly saddened by the loss of Dr. Lafeber Sr. in 2001. To honor Dr. Lafeber’s Sr. contribution to avian veterinary medicine, Dr. Lafeber created the T. J. Lafeber Practitioner of the Year award, which honors outstanding practicing avian clinicians. Dr. Lafeber gratefully acknowledges the Association of Avian Veterinarians for allowing this award to be presented at their annual meeting.
Since the passing of Dr. Lafeber Sr., Dr Lafeber has maintained the tradition of high quality products combined with product innovation.
Quality improvements have included:
- Naturally preserved Avi-Cakes, Nutri-Berries, and Pellets
- Beta-carotene, an important precursor to Vitamin A
- Highly stabilized forms of vitamins A, D & E
- Chelated minerals for better absorption
- Omega 3&6 balanced Nutri-berries, Avi-Cakes and pellets
Product innovations have included:
- Parrot size Avi-cakes
- Fruit Delight Avi-cakes
- The first omega 3 & 6 balanced pellets
- Emeraid product line—the first semi-elemental gavage feeding diet for Psittacine, raptors, reptiles and herbivores
A little bit about Dr. Lafeber’s family life…
In 1985, as part of an audience of 200 people, Dr. Lafeber watched while Christine Davis worked with a wild macaw on stage. Within 30 minutes, the bird went from being frightfully afraid of all humans, to beginning to trust Christine by allowing her to scratch his head. It was literally a miracle to Dr. Lafeber. Dr. Lafeber, who had spent his life with birds, had never seen such an ability to understand and to communicate with birds.
Little did Dr. Lafeber know that in 1998, thirteen years later, this incredible woman would become his wife and best friend. Dr. Lafeber and Christine live in Chicago and Los Angeles. Their family includes two adult daughters, a bird family of macaws and parrots, a horse, a Maltese, and various wildlife that surrounds their homes.