Hydrolyzed feather meal is produced through the controlled physical hydrolysis of fresh feathers from process plants approved for chicken export, the ingredients are fresh, and come from the daily processing of chickens. Hydrolysis consists of cutting the protein chains into smaller polypeptides, peptides and amino acids. Feather meal is a very rich protein concentrate in a-keratin, just like hair or wool. This protein is characterized by its strong secondary and tertiary structure, with a high proportion of disulfide bridges between cystine residues. Due to its concentration of amino acids with hydrophobic groups (phenylalanine, isoleucine, valine and alanine), its solubility in water is very low.
As a consequence, and despite the absence of anti-nutritive factors, a-keratin in its natural state is very poorly digestible (5 percent), as shown by the presence of hairballs in the digestive system of animals.
Through proper processing, feather meal can be converted into a highly digestible and palatable protein concentrate (up to 82% in ruminants). To do this, it must be hydrolyzed under conditions of high pressure (3.2 atmospheres) and temperature (146ºC) for the necessary period of time (around 30 minutes) for the breakdown of the chemical bonds that give structure to keratin to occur. Excessive processing leads to amino acid transformations into compounds of less nutritional value (lysine to lysinoalanine, cystine to lanthionine).