They’re Not for Pillows Anymore

Did you ever wonder what happens to all those feathers that were plucked from the chickens you eat? If nothing else, the factory farming industry does not want to waste one scrap of anything, which is why “pink slime” was invented and why your chicken nugget isn’t really a single piece of chicken, but an amalgam of artificially textured, flavored and colored goop.

Since chicken feathers are no good for stuffing pillows, why not feed them to other chickens? That’s exactly what “Big Ag” does. Chicken feathers are converted into “feather meal,” which becomes part of the foodstuffs fed to other chickens, pigs, cows and even fish. As disgusting as that may sound, it gets worse. A recent study has found that despite attempts to sterilize feathers before they become food, certain antimicrobials still manage to survive .

Samples tested were found to contain sulfonamides, macrolides, fluoroquinolones, tetracyclines, folic acid antagonists and streptogramins. Interestingly, fluoroquinolones were banned for use in animal foods back in 2005, so how they are still getting into chickens is a mystery. There is certainly the possibility factory farming operations are illegally using the drug; it would not be the first time they thumbed their noses at the law. There is also the possibility that the birds are being re-exposed to the drug by eating previously contaminated feather meal, which can make the next generation of feathers similarly contaminated and when those are rendered into feather meal the contamination cycle is perpetuated.

Feather meal is also used in fertilizers, so these same drugs are finding their way into the soil, and possibly our waterways. Antibiotic contamination is nothing to sneeze at. Continual exposure at low levels allows drug-resistant bacterial strains to develop, often rendering antibiotics ineffective for treating infections in humans.

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