The planet Earth is on its way to supporting 9.7 billion people by the year 2050. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), food production will need to increase by 70% to feed this growing population, with meat production such as beef, pork, and poultry expected to double.
However, this can prove difficult since the world needs to meet animal protein demands in the midst of deforestation, a reduction of arable land, and decreasing non-renewable resources. Animal feed costs have sharply risen, with fishmeal and soybean meal making up 60-70% of production costs. One solution to the animal feed problem is using insects as protein. Read on to discover why scientists want to use insects as animal feed and how this is beneficial.
Why Alternative Animal Feed Is Needed
Animal feed (including fish feed) consists of fish oil, fishmeal, soybeans, and various other grains. As these industries continue to grow, more animal feed is required. However, there are certain challenges that farmers are facing, some of which we have discussed below;
Rising Animal Feed Costs
As the prices for animal feed continues to rise, it becomes more challenging to keep up with production. Animal feed makes up approximately 60-70% of production costs, with this number continuing to rise. Whilst larger farms and bigger organisations may be able to absorb this cost, this isn’t possible for small farm businesses.
Higher prices for fishmeal are a result of increasing demand and limited quantity available. Aquaculture is growing faster and will require more fishmeal in order to meet demand. However, 10% of the global fish production already goes towards fishmeal and increasing this isn’t sustainable. South America is the largest producer of fishmeal, and production has been slowing down. Whilst the country produced 12.5 million tonnes in 1994, this dropped to 4.2 million tonnes in 2010. It is expected to keep falling, making finding alternative sources of animal feed necessary.
Advantages of Insects as Animal Feed
An increasing number of countries and organisations are recognising the potential of insects as animal food. This option is both beneficial for insects and sustainable, making it one of the most viable solutions to animal feed problems.
There are many benefits to using insects as animal feed, but sustainability is one of the most widely known benefits. Awareness is allowing more people to recognise the importance of agricultural sustainability and recognising insects as animal feed is a big part of that. This has both low requirements in terms of water and land and high conversion efficiency. BSF larvae require very little space, energy, and water and thus, can lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Natural Food Source
Insects are a natural food source for fish and poultry alike. Chickens pick worms and larvae from topsoil naturally, and maggots and other insects are commonly used as bait when fishing. Furthermore, many insects are suitable for this, including Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae, crickets, locusts, mealworms, silkworms, grasshoppers, and housefly maggots.
Insects Can Supplement Fishmeal
As fishmeal prices keep increasing, those using it have to look for alternatives. Fortunately, insects have a similar market and are used in the aquaculture, pet and livestock industries. Overfishing has led to tighter quotas and controls on unregulated fishing. Insects as animal feed can supplement fishmeal as they are a great source of protein.
Reduction in Antibiotic Use
The exoskeleton of insects contains a polysaccharide called chitin which can have a positive effect on immune system functioning. Using insects as animal feed may be able to strengthen chickens’ immune systems and can reduce or replace antibiotic use in the poultry industry.
It’s also important to note that insects have many nutritional benefits in animal feed. In addition to 55-76% of crude protein, it is also rich in amino acids. The amino acids found in insect-derived animal feed meet the dietary needs of poultry, fish, and swine. Additionally, while primarily known as a source of protein, insects offer much more when it comes to animal feed. The lipid profiles of insects show fatty acid content, including linoleic acid and oleic acid as well as nutrients like B12.
Reduction in Manure Contamination and House Flies
Manure disposal is becoming a huge environmental concern. Often, manure is left in open-air lots and isn’t disposed of properly, leading to swarms of flies. Black Soldier Fly (BSF) production can help with this by making manure more liquid and warding off housefly larvae.
Manure contamination is also reduced by converting manure and the proteins within it into animal feed. In fact, BSFs can also reduce and even eliminate the foul odours that arise from decomposing manure by aerating and drying it. BSFs have been known to the mass of organic waste by up to 60% in as little as 10 days. In addition to organic waste, they feed on raw food waste, slaughter waste, and manure.
Insects as Animal Feed in the UK
The UK government is embracing the idea of insects as animal feed and has even contributed £10 million in funding to the idea. The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund money is going to the UK’s first industrial-scale insect farm, led by Entocycle.
The company is planning on taking food waste and using it to create insect protein. This in turn, will feed animals whilst simultaneously reducing deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions. The organic insect-based protein animal feed will be an alternative to soya and can be fed to animals, including chicken, pigs and fish.
Agricultural Jobs in Animal Feed and More
Persistence Market Research suggests in a report that the global market for insects as animal feed is projected to reach £71.7 billion by 2031. The market had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35% from 2015 to 2020 and is expected to have one of 39.5% between 2021 and 2031, with the UK being one of the top five countries driving demand.
As demand for insects as animal feed grows, there will be more jobs in the field, including jobs in research, education and at insect farms. If you’re looking for a job in animal feed or any other agricultural job or looking to recruit staff, Agricultural Recruitment Specialists can help. We can help you find your dream job or recruit the perfect candidate for your company. Contact us here, and we can get the process started today.