Global Bugs

Insects as future feed

Regulate the use of food waste as feed

A remarkable news item in December 2015 about researchers launching a plea for the re-legalisation of swill feed for pigs. Remarkable, as it happened in the UK, the country where swill feed caused Foot-and-Mouth Disease leading to a swill feed ban. What are the motives behind the plea?
Pigs are history’s oldest food waste recyclers. 9,000 years ago in Anatolia and the Mekong Valley, modern-day Turkey and China, wild pigs first raided the piles of food waste left by humans, taking their first steps towards domestication. Swill-feeding – cooked food waste fed to pigs is colloquially known as ‘swill’ – is a traditional recycling practice that turns discarded scraps into high-quality pork.

While swill continues to be used in small-scale pork production across much of the world, its use is controversial in some countries and there is great geographic variation in its acceptance and regulation. Swill was banned in the European Union (EU) in 2002 after the UK Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) epidemic (thought to have been started by the illegal feeding of uncooked food waste to pigs), but is actively promoted in nations such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. In this article, we take a closer look at these modern East Asian systems of food waste recycling, and consider the economic and environmental case for re-legalising the use of swill in the EU.

Risk of feeding uncooked food waste to livestock
Though swill is currently illegal in the EU, this wasn’t always the case. Swill was the dominant pig feed in the early 20th century and was promoted by the UK government during the Second World War to boost food security. The popularity of swill-feeding declined after the War as the abundance of cheap grains led the pig industry to focus on increasing production efficiencies through grain- and soybean-based diets.
The risks of feeding uncooked food waste were demonstrated in 2001 when a UK farmer illegally fed some to pigs, precipitating the 2001 FMD outbreak, which cost the UK economy £8 billion (€10.4 billion). In response, swill-feeding was banned in the UK in 2001, with the ban extended across the EU the following year.

Heat treatment in Asia
While the EU saw swill only as a disease risk, other nations saw it as a potential resource. Heat treatment deactivates viruses such as FMD and Classical Swine Fever (hog cholera) and renders food waste safe for animal feed. In the same year that the UK banned the use of swill, the Japanese government launched an initiative to promote the regulated use of food waste in animal feed.

Today, Japan and South Korea recycle around 40% of their food waste as feed. In these countries, the industry is tightly regulated: the heat treatment of food waste is carried out by registered ‘Ecofeed’ manufacturers, who are required by food safety law to heat treat food waste containing meats for a minimum of 30 minutes at 70°C or 3 minutes at 80°C. Food waste feed is typically fed as a dehydrated pellet, or a fermented, liquid feed – both technologies have been shown to sterilise the food waste and increase the feed shelf life without destroying nutrients. Since the introduction of these regulated systems, there have been no swill-associated outbreaks of disease.

Swill feed may induce slower growth but also savings
In Japan and South Korea, swill is seen as a strategic resource: it is a cheap, domestic alternative to the more expensive, volatile international market for grain- and soybean-based feeds. Pigs reared on food waste produce pork of high quality – practically indistinguishable from grain-fed pork. And though swill-fed pigs tend to grow more slowly than when fed conventional, grain-based feed, (because swill has a more variable nutritional content) the costs of slower growth are more than offset by the savings in feed costs.

Swill costs half as much as grain-based feed (see Figure 1) and is popular: the use of swill has consistently grown in both countries (by 125% in Japan from 2003-2013 and by 35% in South Korea from 2001-2006).

Figure 1- Prices of conventional grain-and soybean-based pig feed and swill (Ecofeed) in Japan.

Swill feed offers EU substantial environment benefits
The switch to swill benefits not only farmers’ wallets, but also the environment. When farmers replace grain- and soybean-based feeds with swill, they reduce demand for these land- and greenhouse gas-intensive feeds. The research team at Cambridge University recently estimated what the environmental benefits would be if the EU were to introduce food waste feeding systems, like those in East Asia – and found that the benefits would be substantial. East Asian style food waste recycling would spare 1.8 million hectares of global farmland, an area half the size of Switzerland, including more than a quarter of a million hectares of Brazilian soybean. The expansion of soy in the grasslands and forests of Brazil is associated with large greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. Because of these benefits, in Japan swill-fed pork is marketed as a premium, low environmental impact product (‘Eco-pork’) and receives an associated price-premium, which further boosts farm profits.

Swill feed for poultry, fish & ruminants
While pigs have a long history of swill-feeding, food waste can, of course, be fed to other species. A number of studies have trialed food waste diets for poultry, fish, insects, and ruminants (cattle, goat and sheep). Food waste containing meats should not, however, be fed to ruminants to prevent the emergence and transmission of prion diseases, such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). In Japan and South Korea, the use of meat wastes in ruminant feed remains illegal for this reason. It is worth noting, however, that there are no recorded cases of pigs, poultry, or fish naturally developing or transmitting diseases such as BSE.

Also interesting: EU reauthorises non-ruminant PAP for fish feed
The use of non-ruminant processing animal proteins (PAP) for use exclusively for fish feed has been re-authorised by the European Commission last week.
2001 FMD outbreak resulted in swill feed ban
Whilst the disastrous FMD outbreak of 2001 showed the potential risks of feeding uncooked food waste to pigs, banning the use of swill was not the only possible solution. Nations such as Japan and South Korea offer working models for the safe, regulated use of food waste as animal feed. As the EU faces both a deficit in protein sources for animal feed and calls to create a zero-waste, circular economy, there is a growing mandate to reconsider the ban on swill. Regulating, rather than prohibiting, the use of food waste as pig feed could safely produce high-quality pork, with substantial economic and environmental benefits.

This article was published earlier online in Broadening Horizons N°22, in December 2015. The publication is a cooperation between the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).
Erasmus zu Ermgassen, Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Enterra gets Canadian regulatory backing for insect larvae in chicken feed

Canada’s Enterra Feed Corporation has received regulatory approval for use of its whole dried Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae as a feed ingredient for poultry broilers.

“We can now offer a renewable protein alternative to those companies manufacturing and retailing chicken feed,” said Victoria Leung, marketing and operations manager for Enterra.

The approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) comes after four years of work, said the Vancouver based insect protein producer.

The CFIA evaluated its dossier in terms of a novel feed ingredient; the assessment included a review of product safety for livestock, workers, food and the environment, along with data analysis.

In the US, the Ingredients Definition Committee of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) accepted Enterra’s application to use dried BSF larvae in salmonid feed earlier this year.

The definition was reviewed and agreed to by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the first time a federal regulatory body in North America accepted the use of an insect based ingredient as a source of energy and protein for use in animal feed.

Antoine Hubert, president of the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF), welcomed the regulatory development: “It is a significant step forward for the development of our industry,” he told us.

Enterra said it is working with the CFIA and FDA for approval for the use of whole BSF larvae in other feeds as well, including poultry layers, trout and salmon, and is also developing a meal with 60% protein content and oil derived from the BSF larvae.

Feeding insects

Enterra rears BSF larvae on pre-consumer food waste such as fruits, vegetables, stale bread, grains, and retail store waste that it said would otherwise go to landfill, composting or waste-to-energy operations where the food nutrient value would be lost.

Dried BSF Larvae are comprised of 40% protein and 40% fat on a dry matter basis (dmb), with an ideal inclusion level in finished feed of 15-30%, said the producer, which has its processing facility in Langley.

The larvae are a source of essential amino acids, and compare favorably to animal-derived ingredients such as poultry by-product meal and fishmeal, it added.

The fat fraction of the larvae is said to consist of highly metabolizable fats, including 55% saturated fat, 30% monounsaturated fatty acids, 15% polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega 3, 6 and 9) <1% free fatty acid.

Relative to other feeder insects, the company said dried BSF larvae are a good source of high availability macro-minerals, including digestible calcium. They also have a moisture content of less than 10%, water activity of 0.5 and a shelf life of at least 12 months.

And to ensure the dried BSF larvae adhere to high quality and safety standards specified in CFIA, FDA, and EU regulatory regimes, Enterra said its production lots are routinely analyzed for heavy metals, mycotoxins, PCBs, dioxins, E. coli, Salmonella and total microbial load.

Joint venture in Switzerland

Last June saw the Canadian company form a joint venture with Swiss insect protein producer, Entomeal.

The plan was to leverage that company’s local expertise to set up a commercial scale insect-rearing facility in Europe using black soldier fly larvae.

The construction of that plant, located in Kerzers in the canton of Freiburg, is said to be underway. It will use primarily waste vegetables and fruits from local farming and food processing activities.

The partnership plans to produce a meal product, which has been approved for use in Switzerland as an ingredient for aquaculture; a concentrated oil product also used as a feed ingredient in aquaculture, poultry farming, and animal feed preparations; and an organic fertilizer product.

EU regulatory developments

Meanwhile, industry sources told us they expect more visibility in September on the process related to the approval of insect meal use in fish feed in Europe.

Insect protein, together with other non-ruminant proteins such as poultry derived sources, seemed to have been given the green light for use in aquaculture in the EU in June 2013.

However, the condition for using non-ruminant proteins for feeding non-ruminant farmed animals, as per Annex IV to Regulation (EC) No 999/2001, is the killing of the animals in an official registered slaughterhouse.

For insects it is technically difficult to comply with this condition, thus preventing their use in fish farming.

The industry insider said he expects the EU Commission’s Directorate General for health and consumer safety, DG Santé, to publish a draft amendment in September lifting the slaughterhouse amendment blocking the use of non-ruminant insect protein in aquaculture.

Source: FeedNavigator
By Jane Byrne 21-Jul-2016
Last updated on 21-Jul-2016 at 17:27 GMT

Research looks at safe sustainable use of insects

Dutch feed company ForFarmers is participating in a research project from Wageningen UR, the Netherlands aiming to guarantee the quality of insects for use in animal feed and/or human food. The researchers are looking at, for example, any possible build-up and/or secretion of chemicals by insects following the use of new raw materials in insectfeed.

The use of insects in animal feed and human food can be a sustainable alternative to other sources of protein and fat. Especially when certain supermarket residues (out of date products) can be used to feed and grow the insects on. However, legislation doesn’t not always permit to use these waste products as feed ingredients.

The goal of this project is to grow insects safely using these waste streams. In particular, the study will look at whether there is any possible accumulation of some micronutrients or secretion of certain compounds by the insects. The potential is for insects to either be consumed directly by humans or used as a feed ingredient which is high in protein and oil so particularly useful in young animal feed. This could lead to a highly sustainable source of quality protein.


Besides ForFarmers and Wageningen UR, partners in this study are the insect producers Proti-Farm R&D BV, Protix Biosystems and Koppert Biological Systems. ForFarmers participates in this project by offering knowledge and experience in the field of feed consumption. In addition to contributions from these companies, the project is being financed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the Netherlands through the AgriFood Top Sector.

Source: AllAboutFeed


Insects and algae top the line-up in future feed ingredients for pigs

Feed sourced from insects such as maggots and fly larvae could be a standard diet for pigs by 2020, says a UK nutrition expert.

Algae could also provide a cost effective and sustainable source of protein for the sector, said Mick Hazzledine, who heads of the pig business side of UK supplier, Premier Nutrition.He was speaking at the Bpex Innovation Conference 2014 in the UK at the end of June, which had pig feed innovation as one of its themes.

The pig nutrition expert told this publication today: “The protein in a number of algal and insect proteins is very digestible and it has an excellent amino acid profile. Indeed some of them have as high a protein value as fishmeal.”

Soy alternatives

Hazzledine said the biggest challenge for the UK and EU pig sector is to try a find a long-term alternative to soy, as the EU is highly dependent on imports.

“This is not easy as soy has an excellent digestible amino acid profile, a high nutrient concentration, and low level of anti-nutritive factors. There are no cost effective alternatives at the moment for younger pigs, in particular,” he said.

Hazzledine said the Dutch are championing the use of insect meal in animal diets.

The Netherlands-based feed manufacturer, Coppens, has recently signed a deal with a Dutch cultivator of insects, Protix Biosystems, to include insect meal in its feed materials when legislation allows, said Hazzledine.

Protix said it expects insect-sourced protein to be approved by the EU Commission by next summer.

Coppens is reported to have pre-ordered 200 tons of insect fat along with 300 tons of insect protein from the black soldier fly.

Future pig feeds

Hazzledine has also been looking at a number of other raw materials that could be fed to pigs in the future, particularly to offset the environmental challenges associated with pig production.

As well as insects and algae, he has been evaluating legumes, processed animal protein (PAP) rapeseed meal and yeast, among others as potential protein sources.

There are lots of EU-funded research projects underway looking to expand production of peas, beans and lupins.

But, he said, while such crops are perfectly acceptable as a feed ingredient for pigs – equating in terms of nutritive value to about 80% barley and 20% soya meal – the problem is that the yield just isn’t high enough. “We need an increase in yield of as much as 40% to make them cost effective,” said Hazzledine.

Improving nutritive value of rapeseed

More research is also needed, he said, in terms of rapeseed meal:

“Plant breeding takes a long time and we are unclear as to which of the components of rape we need to concentrate on to improve its nutritive value to the greatest extent. We don’t understand the toxic components, particularly glucosinolates, well enough.”

Feed additives derived from yeast are now widely available.

“They are probably most widely used in ruminants but, over the last five years in particular, trials in pigs and poultry have shown improvements in performance such as higher litter size with sows and better immune response,” said Hazzledine.

In terms of the wider use of non-ruminant PAP in pig feeds, once legislation allows it, Hazzledine said that would be curtailed by industry resistance to materials such as porcine plasma.

“Some stakeholders believe the current porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus outbreak in North America may be related to feeding porcine plasma to pigs, raising concerns about the potential of disease transmission to pigs through feed. “

Source: Food Navigator
By Jane Byrne 11-Jul-2014
Last updated on 15-Jul-2014 at 08:59 GMT

Insect meals could replace up to 100% of conventional protein source in animal feeds, say researchers

Black soldier fly larvae are emerging as a promising animal feed source.
Insect meals could potentially replace between 25 and 100% of the soymeal or fishmeal in animal feeds, according to a new meta-study that has been accepted for publication in Animal Feed Science and Technology.

Food security concerns have highlighted a need to find more sustainable sources of protein for use in animal feeds. Insects are increasingly being recognised as a potential substitute for conventional sources. Many insect species are highly nutritious and their production has less environmental impact compared with traditional sources of animal protein.

The researchers, led by Harinder Makkar of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), conducted a review of existing research on the five major inspect species that are emerging as potential animal feed products: black soldier fly, mealworm, locusts, grasshoppers and crickets, housefly maggots and silkworms.

High flyers

Black soldier fly larvae emerged as the most promising source, capable of replacing soymeal in poultry and pig diets.

“However, more in-depth studies are required to optimise its levels of inclusion, and at its high levels of inclusion to also optimize the levels of deficient amino acid supplementation,” wrote the researchers.

In laying hens, maggots could replace up to 50% of fishmeal without any adverse effects, suggested the researchers. For broilers, up to 10% soymeal or fishmeal could be replaced with maggots or mealworm, when supplemented with methionine.

Grasshoppers emerged as an interesting protein source for broilers, as they result in a number of meat quality parameters, such as higher antioxidant potential, longer shelf life, increased protein and decreased cholesterol content.

Silkworm could be a promising feed resource for cattle, owing to its low rumen degradability, reported the researchers. They said that in fattening diets of Jersey calves, defatted silkworm meal could replace 33% of groundnut cake without affecting performance, and that experiments in growing and finishing pigs how shown that defatted silkworm meal could replace 100% of soymeal or fishmeal.

Peak protein content

The researchers reported that the crude protein contents of these alternate sources were high, varying from 42-63%, which is comparable with soymeal. After defatting, the crude protein content in insect meals is expected to be higher than that of soymeal.

“Some insect meals, for example, black soldier fly larvae, housefly maggot meal, mealworm, silkworm, contain as much as 36% oil, which can be isolated and used for the preparation of biodiesel, and the rest of the defatted meal could find a place as a protein-rich resource in the feed industry,” wrote the researchers.

They said that defatted insect meals would be an ideal choice for ruminants as the presence of high levels of lipids in the meals can decrease fibre digestion in the rumen.

Enough amino acids?

The researchers concluded that “overall levels of essential amino acids in insect meals are good; most essential amino acid levels in silkworm pupae meal and black soldier fly larvae being higher than in soymeal or the FAO reference protein.”

They suggested that a 50:50 mixture of black soldier fly larvae and housefly maggot meals would provide a balanced amino acid composition for use in livestock feed as soymeal replacers.

Levels of arginine – an essential amino acid for laying hens – in all insect meals were found to be lower than in soymeal, suggesting that diets of hens fed insect meal would have to be supplemented with arginine.

Calcium supplementation necessary

Calcium is important for poultry, pigs and milk producing cattle. Whilst black solder larvae are rich in calcium (7.56%), calcium levels for other insect meals were found to be very low, meaning that calcium supplementation would be required if they were used in animal feed.

Large scale production

In order for insect meals to be a significant part of the animal diets produced by the feed industry, the researchers said there was a need for cost effective, mass insect rearing facilities, a regulatory framework and sanitation procedures for safe use of bio-wastes and managing diseases, heavy metals and pesticides.

They also called for more studies evaluating insect meals as livestock feed, life cycle studies to measure the environmental impact of using insects as animal feed and data on the feed conversion efficiency of various insects, to make informed decisions.

Source: Animal Feed Science and Technology


Edible insect farms creep closer to reality in Europe

The EU is exploring the viability of fly larvae as a livestock food source. Dr Elaine …
The EU is exploring the viability of fly larvae as a livestock food source. Dr Elaine Fitches, PROteINSECT project co-ordinator, with a BBC film crew. (Credit: Reproduced with permission PROteINSECT) View gallery (3 images)

As many have discovered, insects can be a delicious, not-at-all-creepy food source that could save us all from a looming global protein deficit. The good news is that the main objection to raising insects for food and livestock feed – that it poses insurmountable chemical and biological health risks – has been tentatively ruled out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which says edible insects appear to pose no more of a chemical or biological hazard than any other form of livestock farming.

In preparing their report, EFSA researchers drew data from peer reviewed scientific studies from France, the Netherlands and Belgium to create a risk profile identifying the potential biological, chemical and environmental hazards associated with farmed insects. According to the report, the presence of these hazards would depend on production methods, the substrate (the food the insects are raised on), the lifecycle stage at which the insects are harvested, the insect species and methods of further processing.

The report also considered the potential hazards if the insects are fed on kitchen waste and animal manure. It found that as long as the substrate does not include protein derived from human waste or ruminants, the presence of abnormal proteins that can cause diseases such as BSE (aka mad cow disease) in cattle is expected to be reduced.

The report concluded that the potential risks of producing, processing and consuming insects as a food source are much the same as other forms of animal husbandry, and the environmental risks are expected to be comparable.

Of course, there are still a lot of uncertainties related to animal and human consumption of insects and the report makes it clear that there just isn’t enough data at this stage to conclusively state that all the risks can be managed. The buildup of chemicals such as heavy metals or arsenic is one possible risk that will need to be studied.

The European Commission will now to review the data and decide whether to go ahead with an EC-funded project, PROteINSECT, which would further examine the safety and viability of farming fly larvae as livestock feed.

The “ick factor” may still be stopping insects gaining much traction as a direct food source in wealthier countries, but research shows that the public are generally comfortable with the idea of insects as livestock feed (after all, in our most idyllic visions of farm life, chickens are scratching around in the dirt for earthworms).

Since 2013, PROteINSECT has worked with experts from the EU, China and Africa to research introducing two species of fly larvae into the diets of chickens, pigs and fish. The research has included raising farmed flies on various forms of organic waste, carrying out feeding trials on livestock and aquaculture stock and analyzing the quality and safety of the new food source.

A spokesperson from PROteINSECT partner Minerva Communications UK told New Atlas that the project is now waiting on the EC review.

“Changes to the European legislation concerning the feeding of insects to fish are already being considered and it is expected that a further widening of the debate on legislation on substrate use and insect varieties to be fed to poultry and pigs will follow in the next 18 months or so,” she says. “EFSA will need to conduct a further safety analysis once it has all the data required as stated in its first risk assessment report.”

With global meat demand expected to rise to 72 percent above 2000 levels by 2030, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, a rapid increase in protein sources for animal feed is urgently needed.

The potential for increasing the global cultivated land area is limited, and despite our efforts, many of the major food crops are currently showing only modest gains in yield. So farming insects as a protein source for livestock and freeing up land to grow crops for direct consumption by the human populace could lead to a long-term increase in food security.

“The protein gap in Europe is a very real risk to social, economic and environmental progress,” says PROteINSECT coordinator, Dr Elaine Fitches “As we seek sustainable European long term solutions we must consider the benefits that the introduction of insects – specifically fly larvae – could have on the content of animal feed. PROteINSECT believes these highly effective protein converters offer great potential for Europe to become global contributors to the provision of alternative and additional innovative protein sources.”

The insect species reported to have the greatest potential for use as a food or feed in the EU includes houseflies, mealworms, crickets and silkworms.

The EFSA report is available in the EFSA Journal.