Chicken Feathers an Underutilised By-Product of Poultry Industry

A poultry company and a research organisation have put forth a new use for chicken feathers: feed for pigs, domestic pets, fish, and other animals. RÚV reports that Matís, a government-owned, independent research firm, and Reykjagarður ehf., the company behind the Holta poultry product brand, have published a report which concludes that chicken feathers are an underutilised by-product of the poultry industry.

The partners’ research indicates that chicken feathers are rich in protein and could, for instance, replace up to 30% of fishmeal without having any ill effect on farmed cod.

“In order to utilise chicken feathers as feather meal nutritious for animal cultivation, proteins are degraded to make the feather meal digestible for farming animals,” reads the report’s English summary. “In this project feather meal from chicken feathers was hydrolysed to increase the digestibility. The chemical content of the feather meal was examined as well as amino acids composition. The Icelandic feather meal was also compared to results of researches conducted elsewhere on feather meal. Feather meal has an 80% protein content and its digestibility is comparable to fish meal. Feather meal has been used for a long time in feed in North and South America and has in recent years been pushing itself as a cheap protein source for farming animals in Europe.”

Iceland produces around 2,000 tonnes of chicken feathers every year. Therefore, the report continues, utilising this poultry by-product as feed would make the poultry industry more environmentally friendly, as the feathers are currently landfilled. Iceland intends to reduce the amount of waste that is landfilled every year by 2020; finding a new use for chicken feathers would aid in that goal, say researchers. The feathers would also not have to be imported, like other kinds feed, and would create additional value within the poultry industry.