Business: Where the Best Ideas Take Wing

Unsung ARS, one of the most innovative labs in the world, is doing some cool things with feathers

AS ALCHEMY GOES, THIS ISN'T THE most glamorous of experiments. No one is turning straw into gold here or even water into wine. But David Emery is on a mission to convert the poultry industry's trash--feathers, basically--into heavy-duty cash. Every so often a few tons of wet, filthy feathers are delivered to the abandoned factory Emery bought in Wheaton, Mo. (pop. 712). Emery, an industry veteran who specialized in removing meat from bone, sends the glop through a maze of machinery he cobbled together to clean, dry and position the feathers for slicing. Finally, a giant contraption with three vacuumized tubes...

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