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  • Unconventional Ag

Insects Equal Soy Nutrition in Animal Feed

A research team at the UK-based Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) and AB Agri have found that insects perform on par with soy as a source of protein in chicken, fish, and pig feed according to nutritional tests.

The EU is only 25% to 30% self-sufficient in crop protein, prompting the team to research insects as a viable alternative and supplement to soy imports, as they can live on waste products and have a rapid conversion rate of turning that waste into protein-rich insect biomass.

Nutritional profiling of the larvae of Musca domestica, or the housefly, indicated that protein levels were generally higher than 50% of dry matter. Levels of the amino acids, methionine and lysine matched or exceeded those for soy in feeds, and the content levels for some minerals exceeded those of soy as well. These results have given the team reason to conclude that the amino acids and fatty acids in insect meal were comparable to soy and fishmeal, and suitable for inclusion in animal feeds.

Trial testing in chickens is underway to determine digestibility of insect feed in comparison with fishmeal, with initial testing providing promising results.

Although insect meal may prove viable to be used in animal feeds, more research will be needed to develop methods for the commercial scale production of the insects as current methods are too labor-intensive and too inefficient to be profitable. In addition, current laws in the EU making it illegal to feed insects to animals would need revision before commercial use can be explored.

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