The Kera project was carried out from January to October 2021. The project was a feasibility study on the valorization of chicken feather meal containing 90% keratin for the development of bio-based polymer products with high added value.

The project was organized in 4 parts:

  1. Develop methods for extracting keratin from feather meal.
  2. Evaluate the best treatment of extracted keratin and feather meal to produce injection-molded parts and extruded films.
  3. A preliminary assessment of consumer acceptance of the use of feathers as packaging material.
  4. A preliminary sustainability assessment.

The use of feather meal as a raw material that is free of keratin pathogens has posed several challenges. It was found that the treatment of feathers with feather meal at high temperatures caused partial cross-linking of lipids and keratin, as well as the hydrolysis of components. Therefore, it was difficult to extract pure keratin or to process feather meal directly under established conditions in the field.

However, feather meal can be used as a filler in combination with bio-based polyesters to make injection-molded parts that are very hard but brittle. The extracted keratin can be transformed into a film, but it still contains cross-linked residues (brown color and unpleasant odor).

The consumer study conducted using an online questionnaire, addressed to a diverse group of respondents, indicated that there was no prior concern about the use of biomass based on chicken feathers for packaging applications. The preliminary life cycle assessment indicated that extraction using solvents was not recommended and that the overall environmental impact was positive, provided that the treatment was optimized (solvent-free or water-based approach) and scaled up.