Chicken feather meal—a mix of processed chicken feathers, blood and innards—is one of the nastiest byproducts of the poultry processing industry. The 11 billion pounds of feather meal that pile up in the United States each year are mostly used as animal feed and fertilizer. A new study from scientists at the University of Nevada indicates that the feather/blood/innard mash-up might be better suited as a non-food based feedstock for biofuels.
The biodiesel process, which involves extracting fat from feather meal with boiling water, has the potential to generate 153 million gallons of biofuel in the U.S. and 593 million gallons of biodiesel worldwide based on the amount of poultry waste produced each year. According to the researchers, feather meal biofuel is of comparable quality to other popular biofuel feedstocks. And apparently, chicken feather meal sans fat makes both a more nutritious animal feed and a better nitrogen source for fertilizer.
Surprisingly, chicken feather meal isn't the strangest biofuel feedstock available. That's because anything containing fat can be turned into biodiesel (yes, even human fat). Other biofuel feedstock candidates include chocolate waste, styrofoam coffee cups, coffee grounds, and turkey guts.