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Dott.ssa Elena Diaz Vicuna

Phd thesis

Title: Beef-Haze - Hazelnut Industrial By-Product Inclusion in Piedmontese beef cattle livestock system


Scientific background

The circular economy principles are currently gaining a growing interest due to the increasing relevance of global challenges (overpopulation, world hunger, climate change, international conflicts).[1] Among the various solutions presented in literature (upcycled food production, material recovery, etc), one recognized as most effective is the re-use of co-/by-products from the food chain supply as feed [2]; in this context, the idea of using the hazelnut skins in livestock is yet to be fully explored.

Hazelnut skins (HS) are an agro-industrial co-products resulting from hazelnut roasting that lack any type of value and are classified as waste. [3] Their re-evaluation, on which the project is based, might present economic interests due to the related industry’s relevance. The latest global data report a production of grossly 1.1 million tons in 2020, with Italy as second main producer, being responsible for around 15% of the whole total production [4] and homeland to one of the main confectionery plants: Ferrero Spa, accounted for the use of one quarter of the yearly global production.

In literature, the HS’ nutritional profile is mainly defined by high values of fiber and total lipids (in particular unsaturated fatty acids) and a peculiar richness in bioactive principles, such as phenolic compounds and tocopherols, known for their antioxidant properties. Natural antioxidants are proved to be effective in beef production on various levels (animal welfare and overall product quality).

Promising results have been recorded in preliminary trials evaluating the effects of HS inclusion in dairy cows’ [5] and sheep’s diets [6-7]; no data are yet available on beef cattle, nor on Piedmontese cattle. The project is therefore aimed at promoting the use of hazelnut skin in beef cattle production, in line with a circular economy philosophy.

Aims and innovative aspects

Specific objectives:

  • Decrease the hazelnut industry’s environmental impact;
  • Improve the animals’ welfare and the derived product’s shelf life, due to the skins’ nutraceutical and antioxidant properties;
  • Involve the consumers in a sensory evaluation while contributing to increase their perception on the issues of sustainability and circular economy.

Main techniques

The innovation of the study will be guaranteed by:

  • the preliminary characterization of the HS;
  • the inclusion of HS in Piedmontese beef cattle nutrition, a current knowledge gap;
  • the use of an overall multidisciplinary approach;
  • the active involvement of consumers as expression of citizen science.
  1. Project phases:
  2. Preliminary analysis on HS aimed at determining the nutritional profile and to identificate the main bioactive elements

Chemical composition will be mostly determined following AOAC procedures and (for the neutral detergent fiber) Van Soest et al.’s guidelines. [7] The energetic value will be estimated using National Research Council (NRC) equations. Fatty acid composition [8], phenolic content, antioxidants and antimicrobial properties [9] will also be determined.

  1. In vivo trial

Weaned calves will be divided in two groups and receive two different feeds: a conventional concentrate (control) and a mixture of the same concentrate and HS (treated). Calves will be followed from weaning to the end of the productive cycle (800kg ± 13 months), during which live performances such as body weight, body weight gain and feed conversion efficiency will be recorded; at slaughter, rumen fluid will be collected for microbiota analyses. After 24h of refrigerated storage, the longissimus dorsi muscle will also be sampled for the meat analyses.

  1. Meat analyses

It is planned to define physical, chemical, and nutritional traits, with a focus on the antioxidant capacity aimed at exploring the efficacy of HS.

Finally, microbiological exams will also be conducted in relation to the shelf life.

  1. Sensorial properties and consumer science

The panel test reference will be ISO 13299:2003. Online and face-to-face surveys will be conducted to explore consumer acceptability of the product and emotional aspects related to the environmental and social sustainability of the inclusion of HS in beef cattle feed.

Expected results

It is expected that the final results will create knowledge that will improve the animals’, humans’ and environment’s overall welfare. Firstly, providing feed characterized by a high content of antioxidants will determine healthier animals, less subjected to technopathies and infectious diseases and thus allowing for a reduction in the antibiotics (and, in general, medicines) usage, helping to generate a safer product for human consumption. Finally, re-evaluating an item whose destiny has been manure waste up until now will lead to a much more sustainable supply chain, thus meaning another step forward a circular economy structure and an overall healthier future.



 [1] Sadhukhan J. et al., Perspectives on “Game Changer” Global Challenges for Sustainable 21st Century: Plant-Based Diet, Unavoidable Food Waste Biorefining, and Circular Economy. Sustainability 2020, 12, 1976

[2] Pinotti L. et al., Recycling food leftovers in feed as opportunity to increase the sustainability of livestock production. Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 294, 2021, 126290

[3]Campione A. et al., Effect of Feeding Hazelnut Skin on Animal Performance, Milk Quality, and Rumen Fatty Acids in Lactating Ewes. Animals (Basel), 2020 Mar 31; 10(4):588.

[4]Squara S. et al., Corylus avellana L. Aroma Blueprint: Potent Odorants Signatures in the Volatilome of High Quality Hazelnuts. Front Plant Sci. 2022 Mar 3;13:840028.

Research activities


1. L. Ferroni, E. Albini, C. Lovito, F. Blasi, C. Maresca, F.R. Massacci, S. Orsini, S. Tofani, G. Pezzotti, E. Diaz Vicuna, C. Forte, C.F. Magistrali,
Antibiotic consumption is a major driver of antibiotic resistance in calves raised on Italian cow-calf beef farms, Research in Veterinary Science, Volume 145, 2022, Pages 71-81, ISSN 0034-5288,

Oral presentations:

- 2023 IEEE International Workshop on measurements and applications in Veterinary and Animal sciences (MeAVeAS)

1. CortiCow:development of a rapid and non-invasive Lateral Flow Immunoassay for the evaluation of cortisol levels in bovine saliva.

Professional training:

1. Corso di statistica text-mining e topic analysis tenuto da ANICURA ITALY HOLDING S.R.L.



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Academic bodies

Last update: 05/06/2023 09:55

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