Why not feed insects to other livestock?

Here in Britain, our Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) coordinates PROteINSECT. This is about farming insects (entomoculture) as a source of protein for animal feed.

FERA is part of our Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). I’m glad that DEFRA is getting involved in the rise of entomoculture. We in Europe are out of step with other continents, says PROteINSECT. ‘With an increasing global population and a rise in per-capita meat consumption in developing countries, there is a need to investigate alternative sources of protein for use in animal feed. For generations, a variety of insects have been a valuable source of protein for both human consumption and animal feed across continents other than Europe.

‘As consumption habits shift to pork, chicken and fish, insects have the potential to be utilised more effectively as a natural ingredient in high-protein feed.’

Yes, we’re out of step. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations urges all of us to consider insects as feed for livestock and fish. It recommends the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) and the common housefly (Musca domestica). When they’re larvae, both those insect species eat many kinds of organic waste. They turn the waste into insect protein and while doing so, they destroy pathogens.

My fellow blogger Jonathan Neal at Living with Insects tells us about technology for raising soldier fliesH. illucens, I assume. Meanwhile here’s some science about feeding M. domestica maggots to broiler chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus).

In France, Ynsect is a company whose ‘mission is to design, build and operate industrial facilities called insect biorefineries… to bring the potential of insect products and services to a wide range of industries. The first generation of our biorefineries creates high value products for animal feed, especially for aquaculture.’ You can read more about Ynsect here.

So what’s stopping our feed manufacturers from grinding maggots or adult insects into chicken pellets, pig nuts and cattle cake? It’s against the law! European farmers can give insects to fish but not to birds or mammals. That’ll be why Ynsect is aiming first at providing feed for aquaculture. I’ve mentioned before how this law
sets us apart and sets us back

Elaine Fitches at PROteINSECT says that the law has to change. Here’s the press release issued last month. ‘To enable protein from insects to become a significant component of animal feed, European legislation must be changed if we want to allow it to be fed to pigs and poultry as well as fish.’

Vegetarians may, or may not want to eat insects (entomophagy). Would they eat milk and eggs from livestock which had eaten maggots? No doubt some will say yes and others will say no. As you know, I’m proud to eat meat if it carries the Freedom Food label. That means the animals lived decent lives.

Animal protein is important in many people’s diets around the world, so it’s promoted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). When it comes to insect welfare, the criteria won’t be the same as for larger livestock. Maggots love to live in crowds!

I agree with Dr Fitches. With updated European law, our farmers could give livestock feed with insects in it. Insects that might have eaten the most unattractive materials. Then clean meat, milk and eggs would follow. I’d eat those.


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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2 Responses to Why not feed insects to other livestock?

  1. drbausman says:

    Reblogged this on Dr. B. A. Usman's Blog.

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