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Ph.D Candidate, University of Alberta


The ever-increasing world population and scarcity of water resources and land, drive researchers to devise ways to better utilize all available resources instead of simply disposing of things we no longer need. The poultry industry is also facing the challenge to produce high quality products that meet consumer needs, increase profit, and satisfy environmental regulations and laws. One area of increasing interest to packaging manufactures is the production of bioplastic for food packaging from renewable and sustainable waste resources. In Canada, every year more than 32 million birds are removed from the egg industries Spent hens are old laying hens, largely considered a by-product of poultry industry. The egg production cycle of spent hens is usually for one year. They are referred to as “spent hens” because they are no longer at their peak production of egg number and quality. Some of the spent hens are sold as cut-up parts (legs, breast and wings), whole bird, and ground meat. The spent hen has only 166 g of white meat which makes spent-hen processing no longer economically profitable. Further, their muscles become tough due to the formation of a high amount of collagen as they get old. So, the meat products made from a spent hen are not able to compete with broiler meat due to poor quality and low yield. The current disposal methods for spent hens which include burying, compositing, and incineration are often environmentally and economically infeasible. Finding alternatives to disposal that reduce pollution and are profitable is challenging for the poultry. The concept of recovering valuable protein components from spent hens and converting these proteins into food packaging material is one way to resolve the environmental and economic aspects of the spent hens’ issue. Turning the spent hen carcasses into biodegradable food packaging benefits the farmers, the environment, and the economy in general. In this study, proteins were extracted from spent hen with high recovery (74%) and purity (96%). For the preparation of proteins derived biomaterial for food packaging, different plasticizers and nanoparticles were used to improve the proteins based material strength and decrease their water attracting ability. These observations provided an important basis in the experimental design of high performance bionancomposite films for food packaging applications.