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Insect meal: a promising future feed

Broadening Horizons N°9, June 2014

By Harinder Makkar, FAO, Rome

Based on the papers presented and discussions held at the FAO-Wageningen UR conference on ‘Insects to feed the world’ convened in May this year, it is plausible to suggest that insect meals are promising future alternative feeds and a viable solution for the protein deficit problem.

The insect meals such as black soldier fly larvae meal, housefly maggot meal, mealworm, crickets and grasshoppers, and silkworm meal have high levels of crude protein (similar orderof magnitude as soymeal and fishmeal) and lipids. Their amino acid composition is good and protein digestibility is high, and these can substitute 25–100% soymeal and fishmeal protein in the diets, depending on the source of insect meal and the animal species. High oil present in the insect meals can be extracted to produce another value added product, biodiesel; and the defatted insect meals having protein content higher than soymeal and fishmeal can be used as good quality animal feed. With regard to the use of insect meals as livestock feed, this conference also identified some challenges and future areas of research:

  • For insect meals to be a significant part of the animal diets produced by the feed industry, these need to be produced and processed in large amounts. Currently, insect rearing is done at a small scale. There is a need for establishing, cost effective well optimized mass insect rearing facilities that use well defined substrates and produce insects or insect meals of a defined quality.
  • For obtaining safe insect meals for use as feed, setting up of sanitation procedures for safe use of bio-wastes and managing diseases, heavy metals and pesticides need to be considered.
  • There is a need to develop a regulatory framework and legislations for use of insect meals as animal feed, and improve risk assessment methodologies.
  • More studies on evaluation of insect meals, processed insects or insect meals and insect proteins as livestock and aqua feed are required. These should be complimented with economic analysis.
  • Impact of feeding insect meals on product safety and quality from human health point of view, and studies on human acceptance of animal products obtained on feeding insect meals should be conducted.
  • Life cycle based studies on the environment impact of using insect meals as animal feed vis-à-vis other protein rich animal feed resources, for example fishmeal, soymeal and other oilseed meals are required.
  • Some insects (e.g. black soldier fly larvae, housefly maggot meal, mealworm, silkworm) are good in accumulating lipids/oils. Use of these oils for biofuel production and use of the defatted meal as animal feed would enhance the economic returns from the insect mass rearing establishments. Also some insects are rich in chitin, which could also have many attractive uses.
  • Sound data must be generated on feed conversion efficiency of various insects and use of water and substrate-C per unit of insect biomass and insect protein production, to make informed decisions on the environmental impacts of using insects or insect meals vis-à-vis other conventional feed resources.
  • Insects could also be a source of high valued bioactive compounds, which should be researched.

The FAO-Wageningen UR conference was opened by Mr. Eduardo Rojas-Briales, FAO Assistant Director-General and Mr. Roald P. Lapperre, Deputy Director General Agro and Director European Agricultural Policy and Food security, Ministry of Economic Affairs, The Netherlands.A total of 450  people from academia, industry  and civil societies participated in the conference.

The conference report containing Executive Summary, Summary notes from the sessions, Conclusions, Recommendations and Abstracts of the papers presented can be downloaded from: http://www.fao.org/forestry/edibleinsects/86385/en/

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