Scope of Insect Meal

Alternative raw materials are high in demand but there is constraint for availability, consistent quality and even pricing. Think Grain Think Feed covered e-interview of Mr. Leo Wein, Managing Director of Protenga who shared his perspective on scope of insect meal and its usage in feed.
Would you please share the scope of insect meal (in India if possible)? Also, for which species it is used maximum?
Insect farming is an emerging industry for the supply of protein meal and oil into pet food and livestock feed systems, particularly aquaculture, poultry and swine. Insect protein meals have a favourable amino acid profile while the oil, which is rich in lauric acid, is an important energy source and has beneficial effects on animal health. Protenga’s flagship product for this market are Hermet Protein and Hermet Oil, a high-protein insect meal as well as a premium feed-grade insect oil derived from Black Soldier Fly.

Investment in the industry is expected to exceed USD 3 billion by end of this decade.

A major feature of insect farming is the ability to convert by-product streams from agriculture and food processing into a high value animal feed ingredient. Production systems are intensive, and typically employ vertical farming principles. Production occurs year-round creating the opportunity to have very high productivity with a small physical and environmental footprint.
The industry is growing at a rapid pace. The first commercial businesses were developed in the late 2000’s. Around the world today there are some 70 commercial businesses seeking to establish farming operations to supply products from insect farming for animal production. The industry is attracting substantial capital investments, with some reports suggesting that by the end of this decade total investment in the development of the sector will exceed USD 3 billion.
The two main insect species being developed commercially for insect protein are black soldier fly (BSF, Hermetiaillucens) and yellow meal worm (Tenebrio molitor). The production systems are still very much in development and we can expect to see substantial levels of innovation through the coming decade. Increasingly the industry is receiving strong support from the scientific community, providing key insights into the physiology, genetics, and dietary and management needs of the insects being industrialized.
The largest usage of insect meal is currently in pet foods, particularly dog food, were it serves as a protein and amino acid source, but also as a palatant and product differentiator. In aquaculture, there’s commercial demand mainly for salmon, trout, shrimp and carnivorous marine fish farming (e.g. barramundi) feed applications. Aquaculture demand is expected to be a main driver for the growth of the insect farming industry. Poultry and swine applications are also commercially demonstrated. For poultry, the use of live larvae in free-range broiler and layer production systems has gotten traction, due to the good results.
Consistent quality is a concern in case of alternative feed raw materials. Can you please share with our readers about quality aspects of insect meal and other by-products?
Product quality and safety are of critical importance to producers of insect products. Insect products are approved for use in pet food and aquaculture in Europe, and European authorities recently approved use of mealworms for human consumption. Approval for poultry and swine in the EU is expected 2021 or 2022.
Insect products are produced using best practice manufacturing processes comparable to other high-quality animal protein manufacturing processes. Conditions are controlled with respect to inputs, process parameters and outputs, with the goal of ensuring a high level of safety and quality.
Reputable producershave rigorous quality and hygiene control procedures and traceability systems in place to ensure compliance with local and international regulatory requirements. In several regions such as South East Asia, industry associations have formed, that provide orientation and guidance on the emerging market and regulatory requirements. In South East Asia, the Asian Food & Feed Insect Association (AFFIA) is bringing together some of the main insect farming companies.
Can you share any case study about the impact on performance (for poultry or other species) while using insect-meal as an ingredient?
Feeding trials have been conducted with many species including salmon, rainbow trout, tilapia, perch and catfish. BSF protein meal can be used to replace up to 100% of the fishmeal component of diets for salmon (Bruni et al. 2020, Li et al. 2020), and more generally up to 30% of total dietary requirements across a broad range of species (Hua 2020). Inclusion of BSF in salmon diets has positively affected gut health.
In poultry, up to 30% of the diet of layers and broilers can be replaced with BSF insect meal. Insect Meal can be included in the diets of day-old chicks. Insect oil can serve as a replacement for palm oil and poultry fat with no detrimental effects on bird performance (Benzertiha 2019). Feeding whole live larvae to broilers improves leg health, reduces fearfulness and health benefits are observed including reduced feather pecking (Ipema 2020). Replacing soybean meal with live BSF larvae in the diets of laying hens did not alter feed conversion ratio, body weight gain or egg laying, but improved feather condition and reduced pecking (Star 2020).
Feeding trials have long advanced beyond the research lab and are evaluated across various applications by producers of animal feeds establishing its uses and benefits across all main application areas. Feed producers as well as farmers & livestock producers are keen to brand their products as including sustainably produced ingredients, and provide differentiated offerings to their customers.
There is excitement about the health benefits afforded by including BSF in aquaculture and poultry diets, suggesting that insect farming products offer the animal production industry more than just an ingredient that serves as a dietary replacement for fishmeal and soybean meal.
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References are available upon request.