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Enabling the exploitation of Insects as a Sustainable Source of Protein for Animal Feed and Human Nutrition

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Insect protein to satisfy demand

Researchers have successfully established fly larvae production systems in West Africa, China and Europe to address increasing protein demand.

Climate Change and Environment
Food and Natural Resources

As global demand for meat increases, so does the need to supply protein in animal feed. Currently, soya and fishmeal are the principal sources of protein in animal feed, most of which is imported from North and South America. The EU-funded PROTEINSECT (Enabling the exploitation of insects as a sustainable source of protein for animal feed and human nutrition) initiative aimed at using the largely untapped protein potential of insects to reduce pressure on plant and fish resources. In collaboration with researchers in China, Ghana and Mali, PROTEINSECT investigated three fly species whose larvae form a natural part of fish, chicken and pig diets. These flies are already being extensively researched and ideal for mass production, with the added bonus of being able to grow on organic waste products. In addition to optimising fly rearing conditions, the team evaluated the quality and safety of protein produced from fly larvae. PROTEINSECT screened samples produced in distinct geographical locations for the presence of more than 500 potential chemical contaminants. The researchers found that all were below the recommended maximum amounts, except for one fly species that contained concerning levels of toxic cadmium. Project partners evaluated public acceptance of eating protein derived from insects by using insect protein directly in human food. They found that over 70 % of participants surveyed said they would eat insect-fed animal products. PROTEINSECT developed fly larvae production systems in West Africa, China and Europe, together with recommendations for further improvement. The researchers developed a database of scientific information on using flies for animal feed and on the production of fly larvae for the feeding trials. These results will reduce the environmental impact of producing protein for animal feed and potentially for human diets. Sustainable insect production systems may also provide sources of other valuable products such as chitin, vitamins and minerals. Finally, organic waste remaining after insects have been reared could be used as fertilisers, reducing landfill and the use of environmentally hazardous chemicals.


Insect protein, fly larvae, animal feed, PROTEINSECT, organic waste

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