Animal feed resources information system

Feather meal

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Feather meal, feathermeal, hydrolyzed feather meal, poultry feather meal, hydrolyzed poultry feather meal [English]; farine de plumes, farine de plumes hydrolysées [French]; Federmehl, hydrolisiertes Federmehl [German]; farinha de penas, farinha de penas hidrolisadas [Portuguese]; harina de plumas, harina de plumas hidrolisadas [Spanish]; קמח נוצות [Hebrew]; フェザーミール [Japanese]; Перьевая мука [Russian]; пір'яне борошно [Ukrainian]

Related feed(s) 

Feather meal results from the processing of the feathers obtained after poultry slaughtering. Feather meal can be a valuable feedstuff for farm animals. It is also used as a fertilizer.

Feathers are a by-product of broiler, turkey and poultry processing operations. Feathers are representing 3-7% weight of the live bird, therefore producing a considerable mass of protein (Soni et al., 2017; Collins et al., 2014). However, feather meal is a protein source of poor quality because it is very deficient in methionine (first limiting amino acid in poultry), lysine (second limiting, 1/3 of the concentration in soybean), histidine, and tryptophan (equally third limiting) amino acids (Crawshaw, 2019; Baker  et  al., 1981). Moreover, the main protein of feather is keratin (85-100%), a highly polymerized and indigestible protein (Moran et al., 1966). It is thus necessary to treat feather meal in order to transform it into a valuable source of protein in animal feeding: hydrolized feather meal (Crawshaw, 2019). 

In its native form, feather keratin is very indigestible. Feather keratin contains ca. 8% cysteine, a sulphur amino acid prone to make strong disulphur bonds between each other within the primary structure but also contributing to the folding of the chain into two kinds of secondary structures (alpha-helix and beta-sheet in a ratio of 2:1) within the protein which makes it difficult to digest. This combination makes raw feathers light and durable, unable to stretch like hair and also of low digestibility (<5%) (Kornillowicz-Kowalska et al., 2011). A thorough hydrolysis under controlled conditions (see processes below) is thus necessary to destroy disulphur bonds between amino acids and convert feathers into hydrolized feathers. Hydrolized feathers are then dried to 8% moisture and ground to produce a valuable uniform hydrolized feather meal  (Crawshaw, 2019).  All feather meals produced within the EU are reported to be hydrolized (Crawshaw, 2019).

Variability of feather meal between batches and between plants can be quite high due to differences in processes.


Feathers are produced worldwide. According to FAO, ca. 24 billion chicken were produced in 2018. Assuming that a chicken weighs 2 kg and that an average percentage of feather is 5%, it can be calculated that the overall amount of feather  from chicken in 2018 was 2.4 million tonnes. Other poultry production (ducks (1.12 billion heads), turkeys (466 million heads) and geese (365 million heads) could yield 0.419 million tonnes supplementary feather. The overall amount of feathers could thus be up to 2.8 million tonnes in 2018.

Feather meal, like other processed animal proteins, cannot be used everywhere to feed all species, see potential constraints and recommendations per species below.


Keratin hydrolysis

There are several ways to hydrolyze feather keratin and many patents have been registered.

Physico-chemical hydrolysis

Pressurized cooking of feathers is the primary method of processing used in preparing feather meal. Increasing steam pressures of 204, 276 or 345kPa during 30 min, at pH 5.7 or 9, have resulted in increasing pepsin digestibility but also in lower cystine (degradation) content of feather meal (Latshaw, 1990). However, it was suggested that sulfur content and bulk density (respectively positively and negatively correlated to nutritive value in poultry) should be used to monitor feather meal quality as there was no indication that high pressure was detrimental to feather meal quality (Moritzet al., 2001)

Hydrolysis can also be done through chemical and heating treatments. Keratin hydrolysis can be acidic, using hydrochloric (HCl) or sulphuric acid (1% hydrochloric acid solution, sodium thioglycolate) and then neutralize it with salts or gypsum which may result in a product with high salt content. In addtion, it was reported that acidic hydrolysis was not able to hydrolize more than 54% of keratin (Coward-Kelly et al., 2006).

Keratin hydrolysis was also obtained through alkaline hydrolysis with sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or sodium sulfide. Feathers in mixture with NaOH were boiled and the mixture at pH 12 was neutralized with HCl to pH 6. During this process, the cysteine was degraded in lanthionine and, for this reason, the hydrolized feather had reduced nutritive value (Csapo et al., 2018). 

Another method consisted in adding lime (calcium hydroxide) at 100°C or 150°C to feathers. The resulting hydrolysate was rich in amino acids and polypeptides and the hydrolysis of keratin was more effective (95% hydrolysis after 3h at 150°C). Its composition was similar to the protein in soybeans and cotton seeds, and the hydrolysate was reported to be suitable as a diet supplement in feeding ruminants. It was not recommended for monogastric animals due to its low content of arginine, histidine, lysine, methionine and threonine ((Coward-Kelly et al., 2006).

A constraint of thermal and chemical processing of feather waste was the destruction of some amino acids, including cystine (Papadopoulos, 1985; Papadopoulos et al., 1986).

Biological hydrolysis

Some bacteria have been identified that produce a feather digesting enzymes, that will convert the protein fraction into a digestible form (Shih, 1993). Three strains of Bacillus, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus flexus and Bacillus endophyticus were reported to degrade chicken feather at 59%, 68% and 47%  respectively (Thazeem et al., 2016). A strain of Bacillus aerius was also effective in degrading white and black feather from chicken but also ducks and pigeans (Bhari et al., 2018). Fungal keratinase, alkaline protease, or specific microorganisms can also be used to hydrolyse feather keratin (Kornillowicz-Kowalska et al., 2011).


In the industrial processing of feathers, it is required to ensure that the feather meal has high and guaranteed nutritional values and at the same time a constant and optimized amino acid content, thus a guaranteed protein digestibility and nutritive value, regardless the quality and origin of the starting material. Pepsin digestibility is used as a method of assessing the quality of feather meal. Normally, a pepsin digestibility of 75 % is considered to be a minimum value to assure that the feather meal has been adequately processed (Vanoverschelde et al., 2018; AAFCO, 1994).

Environmental impact 

Feed vs. waste and environmental impact

Transforming the huge amount of poultry feathers into feather meal is an interesting way to avoid disposal of feather which would then be an environmental burden. Moreover, compared to other processed animal protein like poultry fat and poultry by-product meal for Life Cycle Assessment, steam-processed feather meal had the lowest CO2 emissions and the lowest abiotic depletion measured in Sb eq (Campos et al., 2020).

Nutritional aspects
Potential constraints 

Ban on processed animal protein (PAP)

In 2001, after the BSE (Bovine spongiforme encephalopathy) outbreak, processed animal protein (PAP) incuding feather meal were banned from animal feeding within EU and some other countries like Brazil (ABRA, 2020; EU, 2001). Since 2013, PAP from non-ruminant livestock has been approved within EU for use in aquaculture and pet food. A further lifting of the feed ban introduced in 2001 is under discussion. The next possible relaxation regards the use of swine PAP in poultry diets and poultry PAP in pig diets. The latter would allow the use of feather meal in pigs diets within EU. A prerequisite for this would be the effectiveness of controls based on analytical tests to verify the identity of particular types of PAP (FEFAC, 2019).

Quality control

Feather meals needs to be tested (pepsin digestibility) to assure that it has been processed properly. Care need to be taken to select other supplemental protein sources that will complement to poor amino acid profile of the feather meal, when formulating rations.


In the European Union, feather meal has been banned from ruminant and monogastric ((except fish) feeding under certain conditions (Regulation EC n ° 999/2001, annex IV). In Brazil, feather meal was banned from ruminant ditas but not from monogastric diets (ABRA, 2020).

Feather meal is actually an inexpensive protein source, with high rumen undegradable protein (RUP) but low histidine content. It is produced by hydrolysis of hen feathers (i.e. for 30-40 min at 143 °C under 3 atm. of steam pressure), then dried (i.e. 90-110°C for 5 h) (Strzetelski et al., 1999).

Degradability and digestibility

In situ data on protein ruminal degradation are numerous (Mora-Luna et al., 2015; Habib et al., 2013; Scholljegerdes et al., 2005; Moreira et al., 2003Loest et al., 2002; Bargo et al., 2001Hernandez et al., 1998; England et al., 1997; Chiou et al., 1995; Blasi et al., 1991) and range between 40 to 60%. For a comparable crude protein (CP) content (43% of DM), hydrolyzed feather meal had lower CP degradation than soybean meal (Mora-Luna et al., 2015); feather meal had also a lower CP degradability than sunflower meal (Bargo et al., 2001). Protein from feather meal has thus low ruminal degradability, but also high intestinal true digestibility (Branco et al., 2006; de Oliveira et al., 2003; Rodriguez et al., 2003; Strzetelski et al., 1999; Lee et al., 1997; Calsamiglia et al., 1995). In wethers, at similar intake, hydrolyzed feather meal resulted in similar portal and hepatic nitrogenous nutrient flows (alpha-amino nitrogen, ammonia and urea) as other protein sources (soybean meal, corn gluten meal) (Branco et al., 2004).

Finally, feather meal is an effective source of metabolisable protein and of sulfur amino-acids, mainly consisting in cysteine, while only very little methionine is available and could be limiting.

Dairy cattle

Feather meal can be an effective supplemental protein source for lactating dairy cattle in certain conditions. In mid-lactation Holstein cows, feather meal at 3% of DM intake was beneficial for milk production with corn silage diet at 14% CP but not at 18% CP; feather meal at 6% of DM intake, had no effect on DM intake and milk fat percentage, but reduced CP digestibility and milk protein concentration (Harris et al., 1992).  Indeed, despite a high level of metabolizable protein, the amino-acid profile in feather meal can be limiting for milk production. Iso-metabolizable protein substitution of a balanced protein source by feather meal resulted in a decrease in DM intake, milk yield, milk protein content, and to a higher milk fat content (Stahel et al., 2014). Feeding hydrolysed feather meal above 6.7% of dietary DM decreased DM intake, leading to a linear decrease in milk yield and in milk  protein concentration (Morris et al., 2020). When cows were given feather meal, the deficiency in specific amino acids compromised the increase in milk and protein yield in response to increasing the frequency of milking, as observed with a better amino acid balance (Yeo et al., 2003). In lactating dairy cows consuming a diet of grass silage and a cereal-based supplement containing feather meal, response of milk production to infusions of histidine revealed that this amino-acid is first-limiting (Kim et al., 1999). In contrast, when associated to other protein sources to support metabolizable Met and Lys supply, feather meal gave comparable milk production than heat- and lignosulfonate-treated canola meal (Johnson-VanWieringen et al., 2007). A combination of feather meal and blood meal can be used as supplemental protein to support high milk production (>37 kg/day) in early lactation (Johnson et al., 1994). Feeding a combination of feather meal and blood meal was also found to increase milk production in dairy cattle (Grant et al., 1998).

In several cases, higher rumen undegradable protein supply provided by feather meal is not limiting for milk production, i.e. for cows on pasture producing less than 22 kg of milk (Bargo et al., 2001). In lactating beef cows fed on Brome grass hay ad libitum, supplement as feather meal-blood meal combination had only little effect on body weight, condition score, milk production, or calf body weight compared to vegetable supplements (Encinias et al., 2005)

Beef cattle

At similar DM intake, feather meal led to higher or similar daily weight gain compared to other protein sources (urea or soybean meal) in crossbred (Charoles/RedAngus/Nelore) castrated calves fed sorghum (Vargas et al., 2003). In calves fed iso-metabolizable protein and energy diets based on 40% sorghum silage and 60% of concentrate, feather meal provided lower weight gains, higher intake and lower feed:gain ratio than the fish meal, soybean meal being intermediary (de Oliveira et al., 2002). Compared to soybean meal given at 1 kg/d from 45 days prior calving to the end of the breeding season in Brahman pregnant heifers, hydrolyzed feather meal induced lower body weight and condition score, but pregnancy rate was not affected  (Mora-Luna, et al., 2014). The lack of a response in protein efficiency to ruminally protected methionine and lysine suggested that feather meal as primary supplemental protein was adequate in these amino acids for growing calves (Klemesrud et al., 1998), but in a further experiment feather meal promoted a gain response equal to only 50% of the response obtained with rumen-protected Met (Klemesrud et al., 2000). Also, the replacement of a traditional grain by feather meal higher in metabolizable arginine (56 to 175 mg/kg body weight), did not affect weight gain in grazing growing Limousin heifers (Johnson et al., 2019). When feather meal was incorporated into liquid supplements to replace a portion of the CP provided by urea, average daily gain and reproductive performance was improved in mature beef cows (Pate et al., 1995). Feeding a combination of feather and blood meals resulted in the best growth in calves (Blasi et al., 1991).


In lambs, supplementation with feather meal had no effect on straw digestion in lambs (Thomas et al., 1994). In contrast, feather meal increased daily gain when it replaced soybean meal and urea or soybean meal alone (Thomas et al., 1994; Punsri, 1991). In wethers, substitution of soybean meal/urea by hydrolyzed feather meal produced an increase in protein intake and nitrogen retention, but also in feces and urine nitrogen excretion, while the digestibility of nutrients was reduced (Branco et al., 2003). The nitrogen utilization of diets was comparable when soybean meal was replaced by feather meal and blood meal (Viswanathan et al., 2009; Cozzi et al., 1995). In a diet containing 70% concentrate and at least 13% CP, differences in amino acid profiles among blood, corn gluten, feather, fish and soybean meals did not impact rate or efficiency of growth in crossbred (Boer x Spanish) wethers (Soto-Navarro et al., 2004). Also, wool fibre diameter and sulfur content of wool did not differ in lambs fed feather meal vs. soybean meal (Thomas et al., 1994).


The use of hydrolyzed feather mealwith blood meal in dairy goats improved the nutritive value of the diet and milk quality (Andrighetto et al., 1994). Also, hydrolyzing the hard tissue (feather and bone) and coextruding it with soybean hulls resulted in a palatable by-product meal for meat goats, supporting nitrogen metabolism similar to that of traditional protein sources (Freeman et al., 2009). West African Dwarf goats fed 12.5% feather meal plus 12.5% rice husk showed encouraging results in terms of DM intake, and nutrient digestibilities (Belewu, et al., 2009).


Despite the ban on processed animal protein in some regions of the world, hydrolysed feather meal is often referred to as a valuable protein source for pigs (Rojas et al., 2012)


Amino acid digestibilities have been recently assessed on different samples of feather meal (unknown process) in pigs. The SID were not consistent between samples varying between 47 and 62 % for lysine, 47 and 78% for isoleucine, and 61 and 79 % for tryptophane, no average value could be provided but it was possible to compare each sample with the SID average value of other processed animal protein (PAP) and it was reported that both samples of feather meal had the lowest SID values for lysine, while one sample had also the lowest value of SID for isoleucine, the other one ranked 3rd in a comparison of 13 samples of PAP. For tryptophane, the SID value of feather meal ranked among the lowest values also (Kerr et al., 2019). These results were compared to NRC SID value of 56, 76 and 63% for lysine, isoleucine and tryptophane in feather meal: the first sample was much lower and the second was much higher... (Kerr et al., 2019).

Enzymatic feather meal

Values of SID obtained in China for an enzymatic feather meal were much higher than NRC values with 77% for lysine, 85% for isoleucine, and 85% for trytophane; it was attributed to the process (Pan et al., 2016).


Conventional feather meal

It has been possible to feed 18 kg piglets on 3% feather meal as a replacer of soybean meal  without impairing daily weight gain, feed intake and feed-to-weight gain ratio (Chen et al., 2019). Earlier experiments had inconsistent conclusions. No difference in performance was observed when up to 4 % feather meal was fed to piglets  0-4 weeks of age and up to 8 % could be fed to the 4 to 8 week old age group (Khajarern et al., 1982b). A quadratic decrease in growth rate and gain:feed ration was observed with increasing feather meal from 3% to 6%  at starter stage (Apple et al., 2003).

Enzymatic feather meal

Feeding 11 kg piglets with 1.5% (dietary level) enzymatic feather meal or spray dried porcine plasma (SDPP) yielded similar growth rate and similar intestinal health parameter. With enzymatic feather meal, the stool consistency was improved in the same way as with SDPP (Pan et al., 2016).

Growing and finishing pigs

Conventional feather meal

In the late 20th century and early 21st, several feeding trials found that, when feather meal replaced soybean meal, ADG and feed conversion ratio declined (Duangsmorn Sinchermsiri et al., 1989). Levels of 5 and 7.5 % of dietary feather meal were reported to decrease digestibility of DM and CP, decreased loin eye area, decreased FCR and decreased feed intake in pigs (Rachan Buaban, 1988). In a later experiment, the same author found that the inclusion of feather meal up to 10% in the diet did not affect DM or CP  digestibilities of the diet but decreased the Biological Value of the dietary protein (CP)(Rachan Buaban et al., 1989). Feather meal fed at 3 or 6% dietary level had no effect on animal performance during the grower phase I and had positive effect during grower phase II (Apple et al., 2003). Up to 8% dietary level, feather meal had no effect on growing (23 kg BW) pig performance and on feed intake (van Heugten et al., 2002). At 10%, feather meal was reported to significantly decrease weight gain and feed intake. Moreover, there was a trend for backfat to increase with increasing level of feather meal and the lean gain was reduced at the 10% inclusion. At high feather meal level, N excretion was quadratically increased and P excretion was reduced. Including feather meal could also reduce odourous compounds in faeces (van Heugten et al., 2002). It was thus recommended to include feather meal at 8% dieatary level in growing pigs diet (van Heugten et al., 2002).

Finisher pig diets were formulated with feather meal (9.7 % dietary as-fed) in order to totally replace soybean meal (Divakala et al., 2009). The feather meal diets and the soybean meal diet were iso-nitrogenous and the feather meal diets were differentially supplemented (+3 AA, +4AA or +5AA) in potentially limiting aminoacids. The pigs fed on feather meal diets had lower feed intake, lower indispensable aminoacid intake, and they grew slowlier. Increasing the number of AA added to feather meal improved amino acid intake, meat colour, meat, firmness and marbling, but it was not possible to totally replace soyabean meal with feather meal in those finisher pigs (Divakala et al., 2009). An earlier experiment included feather meal at 9% (dietary DM) without impairing growth rate feed efficiency or carcass traits (Chiba et al., 1996).

Meat quality

In an attempt to include 3% or 6% feather meal in growing pigs diet, it was reported that the inclusion of feather meal at any level increased pigs growth rate and taurine content, an amino acid which has a range of health benefits for humans consuming pork meat (Seo et al., 2009).

In growing-finishing pigs rations, feather meal could provide up to 25 % of the dietary protein without significantly affecting performance (Khajarern et al., 1982b). It was reported that feather meal inclusion at 3 or 6% increased ham leanness. The other effects of feather meal level on pork meat quality parameters were not consistent. It was concluded that up to 6% feather meal could be included in grower-finisher iso-lysinic diets without compromising pork meal quality (Apple et al., 2003).

In an attempt to reduce feed intake, average daily gain and fat deposition in barrows, feather meal was included at 10 and 20% in their diet. The reduction of feed intake and fat was reported to be effective only if feather meal was fed from the early fattening stage when barrows had only 36 kg BW. Further introduction (between 60-86 kg BW) of feather meal in pigs diet had no effect on carcass leanness (Ssu et al., 2004).

Other feather meals
Feather meal and blood mixture

A process consisting in adding blood to hydrolyzed feather meal prior to drying has been assessed. It was reported to contain more amino acids and less fat that feather meal alone. However, the addtion of bloood did not improved digestion parameters:  digestible energy and metabolizable energy were lower, SID of aminoacids is slightly lower and digestiblity of P is also reduced (Rojas et al., 2012). Recently, it was reported that this mixture of hydrolised feather meal and blood could completely and satisfatorily replace soybean meal in finisher pigs provided they were given adequate amino acid supplementation based on the content of SID aminoacids in the feather meal (Brotzge et al., 2014).

Bacillus inoculated feather meal

Bacillus inoculated feather meal and conventional feather meal were compared as partial (10 or 20%) replacers of soybean meal in finisher pigs during 70 days. It was shown that Bacillus inoculated feather meal included to replace 20% of soybean meal yielded higher weight gain,  improved feed conversion ratio and the proportion high quality carcass (Kim, 2005).

Enzymatic feather meal

It was found that enzymatic feather meal could totally replace fish meal ( at 3% dietary level) in growing pigs diets. It was also economically effective (XiaoYan et al., 2012).

Lactating sows

Feather meal has been included in lactating sows diet as a potential source of Valine at 2.5% (dietary level). However it did not prove to be effective in reducing sow weaning weight loss when the daily gain of the litter was over 2.17 kg/day. In sow with litter with less daily gain, inclusion of feather meal had no effect on sows and litter performance (Southern et al., 2000)


It was shown that high pressure processed feather meal had decreased undegraded protein and decreased true available cystine (Moritz et al., 2001). However for feather meal of constant densities (resulting from different combinations of pressure and time) no differences in nutritive value (aminoacid availability) could be shown: high pressure applied during a short time could yield the same quality as low pressure during long time) (Moritz et al., 2001).

Broilers and laying hens

Because of its limiting amino acids, poultry feather meal could only be partially included in poultry diet. When supplemented with methionine it could represent 10% of the CP and when supplemented with methionine and lysine, it could provide up to 40% of the CP in broilers diet (Baker et al., 1981)

Pullets fed feather meal was found to grow satisfactorily, the addition of methionine was found to improve performance (Khajarern et al., 1982a). The effect of supplementing feather meal with 0.2 to 0.5 % methionine was found to increase carcass quality in broilers and egg weight and shell thickness in layers (Miranda et al., 1981)


Feather meal can provide up to 50 % of the supplemental protein for young growing duckling, 100 % for older growing ducks and 50 % in ducks that are laying (Sucheep Suksupath, 1980).


Hydrolyzed feather meal was used with success to replace soybean meal, peanut meal or meat meal in balanced diets for growing rabbits (Fekete et al., 1986; Ayanwale, 2006; Trigo et al., 2018). The incorporation level used with success in experimental diets was generally 3-6% but not higher than 10% ( Adejumo et al., 2005; Tag El Den et al., 1988).
However it must be noticed that for some experimental studies (digestibility determination) feather meal was incorporated up to 30% of the diet without trouble in adult rabbit (Fekete et al., 1986). Feather meal is a source of proteins (80-85% CP in DM), rich in sulphur amino acid (5.0% of the proteins, mainly cystine). But these proteins are strongly deficient in lysine : ~40-45% of requirement of growing rabbits. In some experiments the presence of feather meal in rabbit diets reduced significantly growth performances (feed intake, growth rate), but in this case the imbalance in amino acids was not taken in account (Trung et al., 2017).
Digestibly of feather meal is a little bit better than that of meat meal for organic matter as for nitrogen (Trigo et al., 2018). A direct determination provided a digestible energy value of 19.5 MJ/ kg DM and a digestibility coefficient of 76.2% for nitrogen (Fekete et al., 1986). Finally it must also be noticed that, incorporated in complete pelleted formulas, feather meal has poor contribution to physical pellets quality (Thomas et al., 2001).


Aquaculture and pet feeding are the only sectors where processed animal protein including feather meal have not been banned after the BSE crisis. Much emphasis has thus been put on the use of feather meal in aquaculture feeds. Feather meal has been assessed as a valuable source of protein able to replace costly fishmeal in many fish species. Much of its nutritive value depends on the way feathers are hydrolyzed but many other factors in the process may alter feather meal quality


Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Juvenile rainbow trout could be fed on four different feather meals (2 steam-processed and 2 enzymatic feather meals) included at increasing levels so as to provide increasing levels (10g/kg; 13.5 g/kg, and 15 g/kg) of Arginine. It was shown that enzymatic feather meals had higher apparent digestibility coefficients of protein and resulted in 10.5-11.5% higher growth rates than steam-processed feather meals. It was however suggested to feed enzymatic feather meal at no more than 100 g/kg diet in order to limit arginine level at 13.5 g/kg, level over which arginine was found to be detrimental to fish growth (Pfeuti et al., 2019).

In an attempt to reduce fishmeal in juvenile trouts (40g), feather meal was fed at 200 to 400 g/kg diet. Increasing feather meal content decreased feed intake and halved growth performance. This decrease could be partly (50%) alleviated by lysine or a mixture of lysine and methione, suggesting that feather meal resulted in other deficiencies than aminoacid deficiency. Including feather meal in trouts diet had also deleterious effect on feed conversion ratio and increased fat deposition at the expense of protein rentention (Pfeffer et al., 1994).

Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)

The apparent digestibility coefficients of feather meal measured on Nile tilapia (101 g BW) were reported to be : 58% for dry matter, 77% for crude protein and 70% for energy and ranked fourth when compared with soybean meal, rapeseed meal and meat and bone meal (Jiang et al., 2010).

Juvenile red hybrid tilapia (37 g BW) could be successfully fed during 16 weeks on feather meal at up to 15 % dietary inclusion as a replacer of fishmeal in a diet containing 29% digestible protein. Fishes fed on feather meal had better weight gain, specific growth rate and feed conversion ratio than the control (containing fishmeal, soybean meal and corn gluten meal as protein sources) (Yong et al., 2018). Another trial on younger red tilapia juveniles (24 g BW) during 84 days concluded that the optimal level of feather meal was 9% dietary inclusion as it resulted in the highest survival rate, unchanged growth rate, feed intake and carcas composition (Nursinatrio et al., 2019).

It was reported that feather meal could also replace up to 33% fishmeal and 66% soybean meal in Nile tilapia fry (2.3 g) diet (containing 30% CP and 19.7MJ/kg gross energy) without compromising growth and protein utilization (Suloma et al., 2014). Former results on fry (12.3 g BW) had however reported that replacement of 66% fish and bone meat by feather meal resulted in lower growth parameters (Bishop et al., 1995).


Pengze crucian carp (Carassius auratus var. Pengze)

Feather meal was used to replace increasing percentage (15; 30; 45; 60) of fishmeal in Pengze grucian carp diets (isonitrogenous at 35% crude protein) during 70 days. Fish growth remained unaffected up to 45% fishmeal protein replacement. However at this level, hydrolyzed feather meal was reported to reduce the crude protein composition of body and further affect fillet quality through a significant increase in springiness, gumminess, chewiness and/or resilience. At 60% replacement, feather meal had negative impacts on absorptive capacity of intestine by decreasing its absorptive area. It was thus suggested not to replace more than 30% fishmeal in order to keep optimal growth performance, fillet quality and  intestinal health parameters at their best (Yu et al., 2020).

Carps (Cyprinus carpio)

In carps, feather meal was found to be between poultry by-product meal and blood meal in its feeding value (Trzebiatowski et al., 1982). It was found that up to 40% fishmeal could be replaced by hydrolyzed feather meal without impairing growth rate and feed conversion ratio of juvenile (20 g) carps. Supplementation of feather meal with lysine, methionine, tryptophan and histidine were reported to be beneficial to feed conversion ratio (Meske et al., 1990).

Indian major carp (Labeo rohita)

Feather meal could replace up to 50% fishmeal and thus be included at up to 20% in Indian major carp (Labeo rohita) fry diet without compromising growth and feed conversion ratio (Hasan et al., 1997). 


Turbot (Scophtalmus maximus L.)

Enzymatic feather meal and steam-processed feather meal were used to replace 50% fishmeal in juvenile (37.5 g) turbot diet. At 240 g/kg dietary inclusion, enzymatic feather meal yielded better growth performance than steam-processed feather meal. However it was also reported that over 8% dietary inclusion, enzymatic feather meal supplemented with lysine and methionine, or not could not compare to control. It was suggested to partially replace costly fishmeal with 8 % feather meal without amino acid supplementation (Cao et al., 2020).


Seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax L.)

Hydrolyzed feather meal was included in seabass juveniles diet as replacing increaseing level of  fishmeal (28; 55 and 76%). Replacing high level of fishmeal with feather meal resulted in lower protein apparent digestibility coefficient and thus higher N losses but it also increased phosphorus digestibility coefficient and reduced P losses. Neither feed intake, growth performance nor feed conversion were affected when feather meal replaced fishmeal. Body composition of seabass and health paramater were not altered by feather meal inclusion and it was thus suggested that up to 76% fishmeal could be replaced by feather meal in seabass diet (Campos et al., 2017).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 92.1 1.9 88.3 95.7 107
Crude protein % DM 85.7 5.0 73.8 96.5 118
Crude fibre % DM 0.9 0.6 0.3 2.9 18
NDF % DM 55.8 1.9 53.8 57.5 3
ADF % DM 6.5 2.9 2.0 11.7 10
Lignin % DM 5.5 2.2 4.1 8.0 3
Ether extract % DM 6.7 2.5 2.5 13.6 46
Ether extract, HCl hydrolysis % DM 9.5 1.8 4.8 12.9 57
Ash % DM 5.5 3.8 1.3 16.0 115
Total sugars % DM 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.6 4
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 23.5 0.4 22.7 24.0 18 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 12.7 4.1 3.6 16.8 22 *
Phosphorus g/kg DM 8.2 1.9 2.6 8.8 22 *
Potassium g/kg DM 1.3 0.2 1.0 1.5 10
Sodium g/kg DM 1.3 0.2 1.0 1.4 10
Magnesium g/kg DM 0.9 1.3 0.4 4.5 10
Manganese mg/kg DM 16 6 7 21 7
Zinc mg/kg DM 142 20 106 157 7
Copper mg/kg DM 10 1 7 11 6
Iron mg/kg DM 625 213 246 833 6
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Alanine % protein 4.6 0.3 4.1 5.3 19
Arginine % protein 6.7 0.4 5.6 7.4 24
Aspartic acid % protein 6.7 0.2 6.5 7.0 19
Cystine % protein 4.3 0.3 4.0 5.0 23
Glutamic acid % protein 10.6 0.9 8.6 11.6 19
Glycine % protein 7.3 0.5 6.1 8.3 21
Histidine % protein 0.8 0.2 0.5 1.4 24
Isoleucine % protein 4.9 0.4 3.5 5.3 25
Leucine % protein 8.0 0.5 7.3 9.2 26
Lysine % protein 2.1 0.2 1.7 2.6 27
Methionine % protein 0.7 0.1 0.6 1.0 26
Phenylalanine % protein 4.7 0.4 3.9 5.4 25
Proline % protein 9.4 0.3 8.8 10.0 17
Serine % protein 11.4 0.9 8.5 12.0 19
Threonine % protein 4.6 0.4 3.7 5.3 26
Tryptophan % protein 0.6 0.1 0.5 0.8 7
Tyrosine % protein 2.5 0.3 2.1 3.3 18
Valine % protein 7.2 1.1 5.1 8.1 25
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 76.8 4.1 72.0 82.7 6
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 82.6 1.0 71.0 82.6 4 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 19.4 0.5 15.9 19.4 4 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 13.3 0.5 13.3 14.5 4 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 74.1 5.9 69.0 85.2 6
a (N) % 15.8 1
b (N) % 48.3 1
c (N) h-1 0.055 1
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 44 *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 39 28 39 2 *
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 88.7 *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 20.8 *
MEn growing pig MJ/kg DM 18.9 *
NE growing pig MJ/kg DM 11.6 *
Nitrogen digestibility, growing pig % 72.1 71.1 73.0 2
Poultry nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
AMEn cockerel MJ/kg DM 12.5 0.5 12.5 14.4 5 *
AMEn broiler MJ/kg DM 11.7 *
Fish nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Energy digestibility, salmonids % 63.7 57.4 70.1 2
Nitrogen digestibility, salmonids % 64.4 58.0 70.8 2

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


ADAS, 1988; ADAS, 1990; Aderibigbe et al., 1983; AFZ, 2011; Church et al., 1982; Dewar, 1967; Fialho et al., 1995; Furuya et al., 1988; Hajen et al., 1993; Hegedüs et al., 1990; Howie et al., 1996; Huston et al., 1971; Jongbloed et al., 1990; Kamalak et al., 2005; Kellems et al., 1998; Knabe et al., 1989; Knaus et al., 1998; Latshaw et al., 1994; McDowell et al., 1974; Munguti et al., 2009; Nengas et al., 1995; NRC, 1994; Pansri et al., 1987; Papadopoulos et al., 1986; Papadopoulos, 1986; Petit, 1992; Quilici, 1967; Schang et al., 1982; Swanek et al., 2001

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:43:31

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DATASHEET UNDER CONSTRUCTION. DO NOT QUOTE. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/213 Last updated on July 17, 2020, 17:30