If one were to say which animal had made the greatest contribution to humanity, it would do justice to give a moments thought to the humble chicken.
For this ubiquitous culinary bird has created legend in french patisseries, given gusto to the breakfast ritual, and united fussy eaters at luncheons across the globe.
And when not being sliced or scoffed, the chicken is friend to many a lonely farmer. Such are the seemingly selfless days in the life of this flavoursome fowl.
However, not stopping at merely sating the consumer appetite, this palatable pecker now looks set to mitigate environmental impact by reducing plastic consumption.
For in a remarkable world first, Dr Yiqi Yang, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has devised a method of turning chicken feathers into biodegradable thermoplastics.
That’s right, chicken feather plastic. With over two million tonnes of chicken feathers discarded annually in the U.S. alone, and an increasing amount of plastic wasted worldwide, Dr Yang decided the idea made “good environmental sense”.
The research aims to reduce the amount of hydrocarbons (taken from oil or natural gas) used in plastic production. Additionally, Dr Yang says chicken feathers are biodegradable and mainly made of keratin, a resilient protein which could give strength to plastics.
While there are still some petrochemicals (such as methyl acrylate) used to solidify the product, it is hoped their involvement will be reduced with further trials.
When asked about the future of chicken feather plastic, Dr Yang says he is optimistic, although its success depends upon convincing large industries to deploy the product. There is also concern over whether people will be put off by thinking about feathers when they eat from its fast food containers.
However, Hashimoto Strutter, from the Bird Organisation of Korea (BOK), says this is merely the beginning of problems facing ‘chicken feather plastic‘.
He says not only is the name a copyright infringement of Korea’s most prominent thrashcore band, but the move will likely inflame powerful Korean businessmen, by transforming their hush-hush chicken feather karaoke parties into a featherless bore.