Zero-Waste SolutionsThai researcher Sorawut Kittibanthorn is looking into how to transform the nutrient component found in chicken feathers into a powder that can be turned into a protein-rich source of edible food that can be used in a variety of dishes. Prototypes including his version of chicken nuggets and a steak substitute have received some positive feedback. Kittibanthorn feels chicken feathers have the potential of becoming an alternative food substitute that can reduce poverty and food insecurity. Kittibanthorn and others are determined to promote zero-waste solutions in an effort to reduce global waste and promote sustainability while addressing global poverty and hunger.

Chicken Feather Waste

The poultry market is a booming industry. Chickens are one of the most commonly consumed meat products in the world and poultry is a cultural and economic staple in many countries. The bird feathers, however, produce mass waste. In the U.K. alone, chicken farms discard around 1,000 tons of feathers per week. Few companies have taken notice of the potential behind these unwanted goods. Feathers have a high source of keratin protein, making the feathers ideal sources of insulation, plastic or animal feed. The findings of Kittibanthorn are unique and shift the conversation toward a multi-pronged solution in combating global hunger using creative solutions.

On top of reducing waste, Kittibanthorn maintains the idea that chicken feathers can be repurposed for elegant, elevated dining. The destigmatization of food waste is not completely unprecedented in the culinary world. Michelin star chef, Massimo Bottura, utilized a trash-to-table dining model in 2018 by recovering surplus ingredients to make nutritious and delicious meals for a community. Food waste is a largely uncomfortable issue around the world and the U.S. alone generates 40 million tons per year. By utilizing solutions similar to Kittibanthorn and Bottura, many countries could work toward resolving the issue of world hunger through zero-waste solutions.

A Zero-Waste Future

Utilizing chicken feathers as a zero-waste solution to combat poverty would fall in line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which include seeking to end hunger and improve nutrition. In the context of agricultural initiatives, chicken feathers open the conversation on the collaboration between innovations like feather-based foods and organizations that promote crop diversity.

The Borgen Project spoke with Rodrigo Barrios, strategic partnerships manager at the nonprofit organization, the Crop Trust. Barrios explains how crop diversity includes two elements of action: use and conservation. Barrios told The Borgen Project about the organization’s program called The Food Forever Initiative. The Food Forever Initiative seeks to enlighten the community with crop usability by connecting chefs to less popular crops and giving chefs the agency to promote agrobiodiversity. Barrios says that promoting crop diversity would also help reduce poverty. In a similar fashion, Barrios states “we identify all biodiversity, internationally, that is fundamental for food security and nutrition and agriculture and we ensure that the gene banks are funded in perpetuity, provided they are up to standard.” The Crop Trust’s goals align with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The organization seeks to build more funding to support long-term conservation initiatives as zero-waste solutions.

The Road Ahead

The practice of repurposing materials that are typically disposed of, such as chicken feathers, has great potential to reduce poverty and push for more sustainable market practices including zero-waste solutions. Trends and practices related to repurposing materials would promote ethical decisions in the private sector, help communities with nutrition security and connect agronomics to crop supporting initiatives.

Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr