The buzz about insects in animal feed

Industry explores this sustainable ingredient with untapped potential

An estimated 2 billion people consume insects as food worldwide; however, the concept of insects as food remains shocking in the West. In recent months, it seems the buzz surrounding insects as the alternative and sustainable protein of the future, one capable of filling a global protein deficit, poses an interesting prospect to those less familiar with the practice. 

Beyond human food, this low-cost substitute to conventional protein sources (fishmeal and soybeans) offers the benefits of an environmentally friendly ingredient in animal and aqua feed. Insects provide a sustainable solution because they do not consume valuable inputs, turn waste into high-quality protein and reduce the gases emitted by manure. For example, black solider fly larvae can reduce pollution from manure by 50 to 60 percent, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 

According to FAO, black soldier flies, common housefly larvae, silkworms and yellow mealworms are among the most promising species for industrial feed production. While some insects are currently being used, mainly in developing countries, their inclusion remains limited elsewhere. 

Many seek to change this. The UK’s PROteINSECT, for example, is exploring the pro-insect agenda through research and by tapping into “the expertise from China, Africa and Europe to encourage and enable the adoption of fly larve protein into animal feed around the world.”

According to PROteINSECT’s survey of more than 1,300 respondents across 71 countries, 88.2 percent of respondents “believe more information should be available on the use of insects as a food source for both animals and humans.”

“Whilst 66 percent said that the larvae of flies are a suitable source of protein for use in animal feed, more than half (52.4 percent) would be put off eating fish, chicken or pork fed on a diet containing insect protein because they don’t know enough about the topic,” the survey revealed, a clear indication that more work needs to be done on the education front. 

Advancements are being made. Earlier this summer, the Netherlands’ Wageningen University and FAO successfully presented the first annual “Insects to feed the world” conference with awareness as its objective.

In the article, “Feeding insects as protein in poultry feed,” author Zoe Kay explains the potential barriers – and great opportunities – involved in the widespread commercial production of insect meals for poultry feed. 

Do you have experience using insects in your feed formulations? If so, Feed International would like to hear about it.