Being a fan of peanuts, a press release detailing research into using peanut skins in poultry feed caught my eye recently.

Work at the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Agency (ARS) Food Science and Market Quality and Handling Research Unit is looking at whether peanut skins can be safely and successfully incorporated into poultry diets.

Is it worth looking at something so small and insubstantial? It is if you consider how many skins are stripped from peanuts in the U.S. each year.

Some 40-70 million pounds of skins are stripped each year as the nut is prepared for inclusion in food or for oil extraction. If that’s hard to visualize, it is, according to search engine The Measure of Things, roughly equivalent to 30 blue whales!

The wafer-thin skins are full of protein, carbohydrates, fats, fiber and vitamins and minerals. They also contain antioxidants, some at levels equal to those in green tea, widely thought to be one of the best sources of these beneficial compounds.

Consumer risk?

But what about the potential risks to those that eat poultry products but have peanut sensitivities?

The study has found no trace of allergenic peanut protein in egg and meat samples from birds fed diets containing peanut skins, so there should be no concern there.

As far as the bird is concerned, peanut skins contain tannins, which can reduce protein digestion, so the researchers are evaluating low dietary inclusion rates with a view to determining the optimal amount that can be added.

Finding a use for the skins, rather than sending them to landfill – and remember just how many are produced each year should benefit both peanut producers and the environment, but actually there is nothing new in feeding peanuts to animals. In some areas, peanut meal is still used in poultry diets, especially in Africa, and studies continue into the commercial use of the nut in broiler and layer diets.

The peanut is thought to have originated in Brazil or Peru, according to industry body The National Peanut Board, which notes that its cultivation as a commercial crop started in the U.S in the early 1800s as food for the poor and for livestock!