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Insect Farming Could Produce Novel Ingredients


An article in The Economist on July 6th considered the potential of commercial insect culture to produce ingredients. The article clearly stated that insect protein would not be incorporated into human food, but has potential as an ingredient for livestock production. Currently three companies are in pilot stage or limited commercial production. These include Agri-Protein of South Africa, Ynsect of France and Beta Hatch in the U.S.

The two species most likely to provide commercial product are the larva of flour beetles (“meal worms”) and the larva of black soldier-flies.

Culture on large scale requires capital investment in facilities and larva must be fed using vegetable-based ingredients. The possibility of using waste as a substrate offers potential to reduce cost and at the same time, may contribute to sustainability.

Before insect-derived protein can be regarded as a commercial reality, regulatory hurdles must be addressed. Although the E.U. has approved insect-derived protein to be used in aqua feed, regulations have yet to be framed in the U.S. The possibility of using human waste in feed for larva is fraught with complications including vertical transmission of potential pathogens to both livestock and then to consumers. It is evident that considerable research will be required to refine both selection of insect species, formulation of diets for larva and production system which optimize return on investment. At the end of the day insect-derived ingredients will have to compete with soybean meal and animal by-products for inclusion in poultry diets. This will be a function of cost per unit of energy and essential amino acids.