Submitted to: Poultry Waste Management Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: October 26, 2004
Publication Date: October 26, 2004
Citation: Schmidt, W.F., Barone, J.R. 2004. New uses for chicken feathers keratin fiber. Poultry Waste Management Symposium Proceedings. p 99-101.
Commercial US production of feather is about 2 billion kg (5 billion lbs.) annually. Presently feather meal is by far the most common end product made from feathers. Regulations in Europe preclude feeding feather meal to animals used for food. Economic pressure exists to find a more stable and profitable value-added product from poultry feathers. All feathers are composed of the natural biopolymer fiber keratin. Harvesting this fiber in a viable commercially useful form to make value-added products has proven successful at the pilot scale level. Prototype products formulations include: high flow, high surface air filters, light weight insulation mats, composites with natural and synthetic polymers, strong lightweight protein based construction materials, and biodegradable agricultural weed control films. Seedling flower pots made from feathers instead of peat moss can be purchased commercially. Product development research may be the pre-requisite to finding increasingly valuable uses for feathers that utilize a larger fraction of the quantity of the renewable feather fiber supply presently being generated.
Two characteristics of feather fiber that make it unique are its molecular order and its morphological order. The fiber is both highly microcrystalline and very durable, i.e., resistant to both mechanical and thermal stress. The best processes that incorporate feathers into value-added products alter its micro-/macro-scopic morphology but preserve much of its desirable original molecular properties. Feather fiber adds surface area to filters, loft to insulation, modulus to polymer composites, decreased density to heavy particle boards, and in place recycling pathways for biodegradable weed control films.