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Supplying Proteins to Poultry Rations through insect meal - A Viable Alternative

Abhijeet Banerjee
Abhijeet Banerjee
insect

Most of us would understand the challenges poultry industry will face from rising costs of conventional feed resources, and concerns regarding limiting supplies in the future will be limited. Demand for meat, milk and dairy products continue to grow therefore it is always a concern as to look for some viable options regarding animal feed. Situation becomes all the more concerning on threats of limited availability of natural resources, adverse weather likelihood and increase in competition between human food, animal feed and bio-fuel, in terms of land and water availability. 

Improving Protein demand for Poultry Rations 

There has been constant improvement in demand for animal feed in last 10-20 years, and it is the need for proteins (to be incorporated in animal food items) that has gained importance in these years. Requirements for protein feeds are expected to increase further in coming years. This is because as reported from various surveys/organizations that consumption of Protein is expected to rise consistently in years to come. As a result demand for animal products, especially from poultry and pigs have also increased notably in this century. The COVID pandemic problems are short term hence it is believed by many that demand for poultry products and eventually poultry feed ingredients can improve again, as different nations resume normal food business ventures again and the ongoing rumors regarding spread of corona through poultry product consumption, goes away altogether.

In present term it is critical for animal feed manufacturers to look for alternative sources of protein resources for their animal feed. This is because demand for animal feed is increasing and studies reveal there is a greater percentage of available grains in the country moving towards for human consumption, thus increasing competition for animal rations.  Insect meals will be a viable alternative to overcome the above mentioned challenges. According to the FAO, Insects can be an inexpensive source of proteins and lipids that will replace soybean and fish meals in the near future.  The FAO has done number of scientific studies and concluded that by 2050 there will be a 60-70 percent increase in consumption of animal products approximately.

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Growing Importance of Insect Meal as a protein source: 

Insects, as proved scientifically are a protein-rich food source and have been used to supplement both the diets of animals and humans since centuries actually. With world population expanding, one has to meet the challenge of feeding the world’s increasing population, and also address the issue of protein requirements. In developing nations, the middle class segment are demanding more animal while the less-developed nations face the problem of a protein deficient population. Under these conditions, there is growing importance of insects to be largely widely for producing cost-effective, and abundantly available protein source to the poultry feed industry. 

Presently there is greater focus on Black soldier fly (BSF) (Hermetica illucens) and the common housefly (Musca domestica), and in large-scale facilities the larvae are harvested first. They are then cooked and/or dried before being turned into a meal. In terms of food conversion, insects are highly efficient as per studies.  

Commercialization of insects for feed & Nutritional/Waste benefit facts

FAO reported few years back that the developments in number of research conducted showed edible insects to be a promising alternative for the conventional production of meat, either for direct human consumption or for indirect use as feedstock. Lots of nations have come up with innovation in mass-rearing. China has already started producing insects for use in aquaculture. In Western Europe, insects are reared for pets and zoo animals as well as for fishing bait. Small-scale businesses have started producing insects in developing countries, meant to be sold as poultry feed. Nutritionally, Insect meal is rich in protein (around 40 to 50 %) with a greater concentration of essential amino acids than soybean meal. Relative to lysine, BSF meal contains higher levels of threonine, valine, isoleucine and leucine when compared to fishmeal. Fact content is also high amongst insects; hence energy supply can be compared with that of cereals or legumes. This implies that nearly similar energy levels are available from insect meal.  

Insects also play a major contribution in waste biodegradation, breaking down organic matter so that nutrients are easily available in the soil for supporting plant growth. Studies point out that commercial production could convert 1.3 billion tons of waste per year, and are beneficial in reducing the disposal and transportation costs significantly. The risk of organic pollution reduces by utilizing nutrients in waste. Through experiments it was discovered that Black soldier fly was able to reduce the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in pig manure by 50 to 60 percent. 

Brighter Prospects in years to come

There is a tremendous potential for supplying protein to poultry rations through insect meal. Therefore, the need to explore new protein sources for the entire world is the need of the hour. In this way completion with human food production reduces significantly. Insects have the potential to yield 200 times the amount of protein per hectare per year, produced from soybean crop. In fact there is no need to fertile the land. They are beneficial in reducing waste since they convert it into a quality protein source. Scientists believe that in the short- to medium-term, insect meal has the potential to replacing fishmeal.  

Insects are important as sustainable feed resources in poultry nutrition because of high nutritive value and wider presence. Poultry population easily consumes insects which clearly indicate that they are evolutionarily adapted to insects as a natural part of their diet. Therefore providing insect meal in their ration is all the more feasible.  Insect production is also eco friendly because when supplied for feed, produces a residue after harvesting the larvae, which can be even used as fertilizer. As per the FAO, “insect rearing should be promoted and encouraged as a socially inclusive activity. Rearing insects requires minimal technical knowledge and capital investment and, since it does not require access to or ownership of land, lies within the reach of even the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.”  For small scale enterprises profit margins are higher since it is possible to lower feed costs through inclusion of insect meals in poultry diets. On the whole, seeking Insect as an alternate protein supplying resource can largely address the problem of feeding the world’s population by year 2050. 

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