Instead of allowing millions of tons of discarded bird feathers to go unused, researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a method for converting the slaughterhouse waste into usable protein.
The microorganism identified by researchers, capable of breaking down the proteins found in feathers into edible amino acids, will first be used in animal feed. However, the team believes that the method will eventually be used to create food for human consumption.
"If we continue to gnaw away at the Earth's resources and spit out waste at the rate we do today, we will need 1.6 planets to survive. But we only have one Earth. Therefore, we need to find new, smart and creative ways to reuse waste to a greater extent," says Rajni Hatti-Kaul, professor of biotechnology at Lund University.
Not only is the process inexpensive, it also works effectively without chemical additives, which is just one of many benefits of the process, according to researcher Mohammad H. A. Ibrahim. "As an animal feed, they can replace fishmeal and soy protein, which today is imported from, mainly, South America, and results in a large carbon footprint," says Ibrahim.
Although the process is suitable for other forms of slaughterhouse waste (fish scales, for instance), the researchers are focused exclusively on bird feathers for now.
Researchers expect to have the process fully developed by the end of 2018. To see the process in action, watch the accompanying video.