Biotechnologists have identified and refined a micro-organism that can convert bird feathers and other forms of organic waste into food products and cosmetics, as Jim Drury reports.
Chicken and turkey are popular foods for carnivores - but might the birds' feathers find their way onto future menus? That's the aim of Lund University researchers who have isolated and refined a micro-organism on an Egyptian hen farm. SOUNDBITE (English) MOHAMMAD IBRAHIM, CTO OF BIOEXTRAX, SAYING: "We have isolated a unique micro-organism. This micro-organism is able to degrade feathers completely to a soluble protein." Feathers are melted into a protein hydrolysate liquid of small chain peptides and amino acids. SOUNDBITE (English) MOHAMMAD IBRAHIM, CTO OF BIOEXTRAX, SAYING: "In this process we have not used any chemicals except the substrate which is the raw feathers from the chicken industry - and the end product is only hydrolised feather into a soluble protein and nothing else. There is no waste in this process and no chemicals at all have been used." The micro-organisms have a 90 percent conversion rate and could replace fishmeal and soy protein as animal feed. Spin-off company Bioextrax hopes to perfect the technique next year. After that, researchers plan to adapt their protein for human consumption....no doubt ruffling some feathers on the way.