Insect larvae as an additional source of protein for Europe's animal feed

May 10, 2016, CORDIS
Insect larvae as an additional source of protein for Europe’s animal feed

The EU PROTEINSECT project has recommended a comprehensive review of European legislation to allow for insect larvae to be used as a source of protein in animal feed.

Europe currently imports 70 % of its protein for animal feed, putting it at risk from ever-growing competition for feed protein from a global population that is set to exceed 9 billion by 2050. Developing nations in particular are seeing a huge increase in demand for animal products, and there has been a five-fold increase in the total consumption of meat since the mid-1940s. The PROTEINSECT project believes that adapting European legislation to allow for the use of insect protein in animal feed will make a substantial contribution in addressing these challenges.

Benefits of insect protein

To address this growing challenge, PROTEINSECT experts from Europe, China and Africa have been investigating the use of two species of in the diets of chickens, pigs and fish, carrying out feeding trials and analysing the quality and safety of rearing farmed flies on organic waste substrates such as manure.

Insects are rich in protein and are a natural component of the diet of many fish and free-range poultry. The project argues that fly larvae can be reared on a wide range of wastes and by-products offering a way of recovering value from materials that may traditionally be disposed of by the agricultural and food industries.

The biological reprocessing of organic waste was a key concept for PROTEINSECT, as not only would insect use for animal feed help to alleviate Europe's protein deficit, but would also facilitate significant reductions in waste volumes. The project found that fly larvae can reduce the mass of organic waste by up to 60 % in just 10 days, contributing towards the realisation of a truly circular economy. The project's research has also demonstrated that the use of insect protein in animal feed to complement traditional plant could contribute to making more agricultural land available for crops to be consumed directly by the human population. This would additionally provide for greater overall food security.

Fish, poultry, and pig feeding trials were conducted by the project in 2015 in Belgium and the UK based on PROTEINSECT UK-derived insect protein. These trials evaluated weight gain and growth rates, as well as segment specific factors such as survival rates in Atlantic salmon. Overall, the project observed that there were no significant differences in the animals' performance and even recorded improvements as a result of the insect feed. For example, levels of good micro-organisms (Lactobacilli) were significantly higher in the insect-fed piglets.

Next steps for the project

The project team believes that Europe could become a major global contributor to this alternative and additional source of protein, as well as provide innovative solutions for reducing . However, they argue that conservative and outdated European legislation concerning the use of insects in feed and food are a major barrier for potential investors, and consequently market entry for insect-derived protein. Specifically, they argue for a review of two EU Regulations that currently prohibit the use of insects as a source of protein for animal feed for animals raised for human consumption, as well as the rearing of insects on manure or catering waste.

Speaking during the event, the PROTEINSECT coordinator, Dr. Elaine Fitches commented: 'The gap in Europe is a very real risk to social, economic and environmental progress... 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 .'

Explore further: Insects can support livestock production

More information: For more information please see the project website:

Related Stories

Insects can support livestock production

November 11, 2013

The use of insects as an alternative source of protein in animal feed is becoming more globally appealing. However, EU law currently prohibits including protein derived from insects in animal feed - with the exception of ...

Maggots may provide protein for future animal feed

April 2, 2014

Relying on proteins from fast-growing insects such as maggots presents many advantages, but we need a better knowledge of these protein sources before they can be turned into animal feed

Insects: A must for a protein-rich diet

May 14, 2013

Arnold van Huis is an expert on tropical insects specialised in pest management and biological control based at Wageningen University. He advocates growing insects as feed for livestock and for human consumption. Here, van ...

Converting palm oil wastes into bio-protein

April 4, 2016

Palm oil wastes could provide an alternative, low cost and locally available source of bio-proteins for animal feed, according to a recent study published in the Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Sciences (JTAS).

Recommended for you

Scientists study puncture performance of cactus spines

November 20, 2018

Beware the jumping cholla, Cylindropuntia fulgida. This shrubby, branching cactus will—if provoked by touching—anchor its splayed spines in the flesh of the offender. The barbed spines grip so tightly that a segment of ...

Traffic noise stresses out frogs, but some have adapted

November 20, 2018

Frogs from noisy ponds near highways have altered stress and immune profiles compared to frogs from more quiet ponds—changes that reduce the negative effects of traffic noise on the amphibians. According to a new study, ...

The taming of the dog, cow, horse, pig and rabbit

November 20, 2018

Research at the Earlham Institute into one of the 'genetic orchestra conductors', microRNAs, sheds light on our selectively guided evolution of domestic pets and farmyard animals such as dogs and cows.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 10, 2016
I would take the black soldier fly to Mars or anywhere else humanity spreads specifically for these reasons. If all else fails, we can eat them ourselves.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.