Five hundred families of four. That is how many mouths the eight employees on the animal nutrition staff at the Dallas zoo feed every day. The zoo has replaced its 50-year-old nutrition center, which comprised just 1,600 square feet.

At the grand opening of the new William M. Beecherl Animal Nutrition Center Wednesday, guests carried in the first round of food onto the loading dock. They also nibbled samples of foods the animals eat … approved for human consumption.

Instead of the ground raw meat and animal bones that carnivores eat, guests tasted mini sausage and cheddar biscuits. To represent the flamingos’ diet of fruits and grains, a yogurt parfait. And salmon mousse represented the fish diet of the otters.

The new nutrition center boasts a whopping 7,900 square feet and will have a great effect on the zoo’s 400 species (2,000 mouths!). The center allows the staff to plan and prepare the daily meals for these animals, and the influx of more to come, at the Dallas Zoo.

Other new features include sensitive scales for weighing portions, freezer/cooler space and a dry storage area that is twice the size of the old one, a thaw room for frozen meats, a mixer that can handle up to 50 pounds at once and a small plant garden for the herbivores.

Photos by Amber Plumley