With ongoing discussions as to how to feed the world in 2050, the idea to use insects as a protein source in pig (and poultry) feed is embraced by an increasing amount of specialists.
Pig Progress' sister title AllAboutFeed recently published an overview in this white paper about possibilities and impossibilities to use insects for animal nutrition. It included general information – for instance that it takes much less feed and land to produce 1kg of insect protein than to produce 1kg of meat protein. It also included updates on the practical usage in e.g. aquaculture, poultry and pet feed. So what is in it for pigs?
First of all – insects are on the menu for pigs and chickens alike when they are out and about in nature. So they belong to the animals' natural feeds. For instance, chitin, found in the exoskeleton from insects, have an anti-microbial effect.
In Europe, one of the more concrete researches have been started by Dutch animal feed company Coppens and the Dutch insect producer Protix Biosystems. Earlier this year, they agreed to start including insect meal into livestock feed, as soon as legislation allows it.
Especially e.g. piglet feed, which contains a high amount of specialised and highly digestible ingredients, is suitable for the insect-based ingredients, Coppens states.
The idea is to be using 200 tonnes insect fat and 300 tonnes insect protein. This amount can be incorporated in 15,000 tonnes of compound feed. The fat and protein is made from the larvae of the black soldier fly.
Protix produces 2.5 to 3 tonnes of insects per week. The black soldier fly is chosen for its short life cycle and the ability to produce a lot of eggs. The (purified) fat, extracted from the larvae, will be the main focus for Coppens.
As said, in the European Union, legislation is what is in the way of usage of insect products in pig feed. In this respect, it is important to focus on processed animal protein (PAP), also known as animal meal, is the most interesting form of insect-derived product.
"Many current feed and food legislation frameworks have no special section for insects," wrote my colleague Emmy Koeleman, editor AllAboutFeed, in an interesting overview of legislative hurdles around insects in livestock feed. "Are insects a novel ingredient? Or do they tick the box of livestock?"
There are discussions ongoing to allow insect PAP into feed in the European Union. It is expected that the use of insect meal will be allowed in the future, some say summer 2015.
Most suitable insects
Worldwide more than 1,900 insect species are edible. Practice shows that especially the larvae of the abovementioned black soldier fly, as well as the housefly and the mealworm are well suitable for the use of large scale production of proteins and therefore usable for the feed and food industry.Insects are cold blooded and can therefore efficiently upgrade low-value biomass into high-quality protein. The highest crude protein content was found in the pupa of the house fly (65.7% of dry matter) and the lowest levels in the larvae of the black soldier fly (38.9% of dry matter).
Especially important is the realisation of large-scale production (from niche market to main stream market). The effects of insect nutrients on the health of piglets will be further investigated.
Unfortunately, there do not seem to be overly many results of trials with insect PAP in pig feed, so far. About two years ago, researchers at Wageningen University dived into the topic of insects as sustainable feed ingredient in pig and poultry diets. It includes the results of several performance studies, predominantly in poultry.
The research concluded: "To introduce insects as a feed ingredient in the pig and poultry feed chain, additional research is recommended on its feeding value, inclusion levels in poultry and pig diets, functional properties of the feed ingredient, safety when using bio-waste as a rearing substrate, extraction of nutrients, shelf-life, and use of left-over substrates and residue products of insects."
More experiences into feeding insects to chickens look promising, as this video reveals. Yaohui Che, working on a farm in Guangdong province, China, is quoted to say: "Feeding the chicken with insects improves the immune system of the chicken. Also, it greatly improves chicken meat quality."