Scientists in Nevada are reporting development of a new and environmentally friendly process for chicken parts that are a lot better for you than Chicken Nuggets - namely, producing biodiesel fuel from 'chicken feather' meal, the 11 billion pounds of poultry industry waste that accumulate annually in the United States alone.

In the study Mano Misra, Susanta Mohapatra, Narasimharao Kondamudi, and Jason Strull used chicken feather meal, which consists of processed chicken feathers, blood, and innards that have been processed at high temperatures with steam.

Currently this feather meal is used as animal feed and fertilizer because of its high protein and nitrogen content. With as much as 12 percent fat content, feather meal has potential as an alternative, nonfood feedstock for the production of biofuel, the report says.

biodiesel fuel
Don't eat them!  Discarded chicken parts may be an abundant source of
biodiesel fuel.  Credit: The American Chemical Society

The researchers described their new process for extracting fat from chicken feather meal using boiling water and processing it into biodiesel.

Given the amount of feather meal generated by the poultry industry each year, they estimate this process could create 153 million gallons of biodiesel annually in the U.S. and 593 million gallons worldwide.

In addition, they note that removal of fat content from feather meal results in both a higher-grade animal feed and a better nitrogen source for fertilizer applications.

Published in the July 22 issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.