|Peanuts, which are a legume, are a healthy addition to the diet of most parrots and complement a diet of fresh foods. They contain more than 25% protein and while they are high in fat, almost 50%, this fat is unsaturated. Peanuts are rich in niacin and other B vitamins, and also contain appreciable amounts of calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium. Just as with any food, peanuts should be fed in moderation as a component of a well-balanced diet. I feed my birds a human-grade self-mixed seed/nut/grain mixture which consists of 5% peanuts. They generally receive one or two a day.
Peanuts are thought to have originated in South America. They migrated to Africa with Spanish and Portuguese explorers and were later broughjt to North America by slaves in the eighteenth century.
One potential problem with peanuts is their susceptibility to aflatoxin. Aflatoxin comes from the mold Aspergillus flavus; and this substance has the ability to cause cancer and it can be deadly if consumed in significant amounts. Actually, this mold can appear on just about any grain, legume, veggie or fruit, but peanuts, corn, rice, wheat, cottonseeds, soy beans, Brazil nuts, pistachios and barley are more susceptible than other types of foods because they tend to be grown in warm, humid climates. Rain which has fallen on crops left to dry may also develop aflatoxin-producing mold. Additionally, any stress, such as poor nutrition, insect damage or unseasonable temperatures may increase the growth of this mold in many growing plants. The FDA has set a maximum permissible level for aflatoxin of 20 ppb and the USDA inspects peanuts for signs of mold and will band any food with detectable contamination.
I recommend either Valencia or Spanish peanuts as they have the lowest levels of aflatoxin. Also, please note that low-grade animal feed products are more likely to be contaminated with aflatoxin than those products sold for human consumption. Roasting helps to dry nuts and may inhibit the formation of the mold. We prefer to feed our birds raw peanuts, however, and have not experienced a problem. Peanuts must be grown, shipped and stored properly to decrease the chance of the development of aflatoxin-producing mold. Be sure you purchase your peanuts from a reliable source.
Editor’s Note: Arrowhead Mills markets organic valencia peanut butter in many health food stores: Arrowhead Mills, P.O. Box 2059, Hereford, Texas 79045.
There appears to be anecdotal evidence that some Greys are sensitive to peanuts, possibly causing some feather picking. Some Grey pet humans have found that their Greys stop picking when peanuts were removed from their diets. If your Grey feather picks and eats a fair amount of peanuts and/or other mold forming foods as outlined above, you may want to experiment by deleting the peanuts from its diet for a few weeks. This means ALL foods that contain peanuts (including pelleted diets with peanut ingredients), and observe if this makes a difference.
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This article was first published in the Winter 1999 Grey Play Round Table Magazine.