Report Synopsis

The future for Insect Bioconversion Products in poultry feed

Aidan Leek

Countries visited: France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Czech Republic, China, Vietnam, and USA.

Insects as a foodstuff or feed material have been the subject of increased attention over recent years since the 2014 Insects of Food and Feed Conference at Wageningen University in Holland, at the impetus of the FAO. Insect protein is seen as a nutrient-effective solution for bioconversion of waste and protein supply. My study focused on finding out more about:

  • Legislation of insect use in feed
  • Research and development of insects and insect products for feed 
  • Consumer acceptance of insects as food or feed
  • How insects are, or will be, produced
  • Current and future use of insects and insect derived materials in feed
  • Feed markets for insects, besides poultry. Who would the poultry industry compete with for access to this material?

Firstly, there is little doubt at this stage that insects could potentially feature in poultry diets – they are part of the natural diet. Further, although in its infancy as an industry presently, technology and knowledge are moving on apace and the commercial production of insects as a food or feed is becoming a reality. Producers were understandably very protective of technical ‘intellectual property’. Getting into detail was sometimes difficult, or even just getting a meeting! Significant challenges do remain in terms of scalability and cost (labour and energy). The biggest area of uncertainty will be the substrate or feedstock to the insects due to the potential of insects to vector and bio-accumulate undesirable contaminants. In EU, subject to relaxation of current legislation, it is likely that substrates will be restricted to feed or food grade plant derived materials on the grounds of food chain protection. Less stringent restriction exists in countries outside the EU. At present, EU law remains in place in the UK and it is not clear what implications the future relationship between the UK and the EU will have on the future regulation of insects in feed. Substrate availability will have a big impact on both the economics and nutrient recovery effectiveness of insect production.

Besides protein there are other aspects of insects to consider. Insect oil is already being used by a Dutch feed compounder (legislation does not restrict this) and this could prove very interesting because of the fatty acid profile of some insect oils. The provision of live insects appears to have an “extra nutritional” impact on bird behaviour, health, welfare and productivity. This area is particularly interesting and requires more study. Insect bioconversion of non-food materials e.g. manure, may offer opportunities in industrial ‘non-food’ markets.

The big potential for insect protein is in the growing aqua feed market. Poultry feed will be a secondary development to this as both the value and need for poultry is lower. Legislation and cost competitiveness with other proteins are major hurdles for insect protein in poultry feed in the future, whilst the use of insect oils may develop sooner.

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