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As population levels rise, it is expected that fish and poultry consumption will increase, generating a greater demand for animal feedstocks – and therefore for animal-feed ingredients. The global feed industry is energy-intensive, reliant on international imports, at risk of commodity price hikes, and associated with deforestation. Therefore, the UK needs to increase feed production resilience to move fish and poultry production towards a sustainable and productive future.
A 60-70% increase in consumption of animal products is expected by 2050. This increase in the consumption will demand enormous resources, the feed being the most challenging because of the limited availability of natural resources, ongoing climatic changes and food-feed-fuel competition. Many farmed fish is fed with fishmeal made of fish caught by deep-sea fishing. The costs of conventional feed resources such as soymeal and fishmeal are very high and moreover their availability in the future will be limited.
A major constraint to further development are the prohibitive costs of feed, including meat meal, fishmeal and soybean meal, which represent 60 to 70 per cent of production costs. Another problem is manure disposal, which is becoming a serious environmental problem; it is not uncommon for large amounts of manure to be stockpiled in open-air lots, swarming with flies.
A switch to insect-based animal feeds could help the UK reach its net zero carbon emissions target, researchers say. Among other issues, tackling emissions from agriculture is vital if the UK is to reach its 2050 target, and insect-based feeds offer a promising method to feed animals in a sustainable, low-carbon way.
Insects are part of a natural diet for foraging farm animals such as chickens and fish. We raise our insects on organic vegetables, all waste is organic and used as compost and fertilizer. Insects need less food to produce protein, use less space, less water, and make less waste too. They are high in iron, calcium and omegas making them the best.
Protein is an essential component in feed, but there are environmental and health concerns about existing sources. Insects provide alternative protein, as well as other nutrients, in a sustainable and natural way. Inseckt protein uses crickets and mealworm larvae in a whole, flaked or ground form.
Insects are nutritionally superior than traditional sources of protein in feed. Insects can be 5% higher in protein than soy meal. Insects also contains chitin. Chitin acts like a probiotic to contribute to a healthy immune system. Insects are also a great source of iron and calcium which is ideal for consistent, large, and high quality egg production.
Insect larvae – think maggots – are grown in pens or trailers filled with trays filled with manure or animal offal – think cast-off organs. When the flies have laid their eggs, the trays are transferred to a different container. There they will develop into maggots that eventually reach the end of the larval life cycle. At this moment, they will be put into a heater or dehydrator device to dry them out. Once dry, they can be ground into a flour-like substance that can be added to the meal used to feed livestock, poultry, or fish.
Growing insects requires a negligible investment of capital or land. The time-consuming part is loading the trays, switching the trays, moving the trays to where the larvae can be dried out, transferring the dried insects to the pulverising machine, and turning the insects into flour.
Fortunately, each of these labour-intensive steps can easily be automated, introducing accuracy and tracking capabilities to the process along with a lower production costs.
Insects are a replenishing, sustainable source of food. By setting aside some larvae from each generation, there will be new flies to lay new eggs and produce new flies.
There are already several farms that specialise in a variety of different insects. The majority are currently involved in feasibility and automation studies.
Nutrients that predict animal performance are, above all, metabolisable energy (ME), digestible amino acids and retainable minerals. In a well-balanced feed, the cost of ME will be 65-70% of the total nutrient cost, while for digestible amino acids it will be 24-26%. Of all the 22 amino acids, lysine, methionine/cysteine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, isoleucine and arginine are regarded to be limiting in the order as stated. From the literature it appears that Amusca larvae contain less ash and more fat (Table 1). It should be noted that the fat content and fatty acid composition depends on the diet of the larvae. The protein content is similar to soybean meal. The fibre fraction in Amusca larvae is mainly chitin.
Table 1 – Chemical composition of Amusca larvae, fish meal, meat meal and soybean meal.
|Literature Housefly larvae*||Amusca larvae||Fish meal||Meat meal||Soybean meal|
|Unit||g/kg DM||g/kg DM||g/kg DM||g/kg DM||g/kg DM|
|Ash||146 (107 – 231)||69||183||185||74|
|CP||491 (375 – 604)||544||688||618||532|
|Fat||182 (141 -236)||275||113||152||22|
Digestibility can best be evaluated with in vivo digestibility trials. Simulation of the digestive tract by incubation of stomach conditions (pepsin/HCl) and small intestines (buffer/pancreas) may be effective. Therefore, it is useful to compare these with ingredients that are well described in feed tables. For poultry, the in vivo digestibility of insect-meal in terms of essential amino acids is 89-95%, depending on the amino acid, and is comparable to fish meal. Housefly pupae showed similar in vitro digestibility for organic material (OM) and proteins (N) compared to fish meal and poultry meal. The digestibility of pupae is normally lower compared to larvae. This can be explained by the fact that pupae contain more chitin which is less digestible for younger animals like broilers. Based on in vivo and in vitro trials, the digestibility coefficients of Amusca larvae are in the same order as CVB table values for meat meal and soybean meal (Table 2). For protein in larvae the digestibility is assumed to be higher than meat meal.
Table 2 – Digestibility and ME for Amusca larvae, meat meal and soybean meal.
|Digestibility %||Amusca larvae||Fish meal||Meat meal||Soybean meal|
|ME layer kcal/kg||4100||3467||3452||2205|
|ME poultry kcal/kg||3800||3334||3274||2197|
The amino acid profile of insects and fish meal is similar. Compared to soybean meal, larvae are similar in lysine, threonine and valine, higher in methionine but lower in arginine, glutamine and tryptophan. Based on their amino acid profile, the larvae will be closer to fish meal in value than to soybean meal or meat meal.
Because of the high fat content, the ME-value of larvae is substantially higher than that of fish meal, meat meal and soybean meal. It should be noted that the fat content and fatty acid composition depends on the diet of the larvae. The price, or market value, for ME will depend on the energy prices for feed and fuel. About 68% of the ingredient costs of feed are for metabolisable energy (ME). Assuming that the price of the ingredients for a layer feed is € 210 per tonne, the price for ME (2825 kcal/kg) in the feed will be € 142 per tonne. Extrapolating this price assumption, the price for energy in larvae (4000 kcal/kg) will be € 201 per tonne. In addition, the proteins and minerals in the insects will add to their value.
Up to 25% of housefly larvae can be used in broiler diets without negative effects on performance. The performance is similar to fish meal. Housefly larvae could also replace up to 20% of fish meal in layer feeds without affecting performance and egg quality. At price levels of € 250 per tonne larvae 880 DM, the optimum inclusion rate was 18.5%. In this feed soybean meal and rapeseed meal were not price competitive and not included.
With a gradual increase in the price of larvae, the inclusion rate reduced to 5.6% at € 500 per tonne. At € 525 and above, larvae proved to be too expensive. These calculations show that it is cost effective to implement a full reduction of soybean meal with larvae prices of up to € 450 per tonne. Where insect production is carried out by the layer farmers, the maximum costs can reach € 485 when replacing all soya or € 560 when starting inclusion. In organic egg production, the use of soya is restricted to non-GMO. In that sector the use of synthetic amino acids is prohibited. This will result in a higher value for insects in this specific sector.