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Insects as an alternative novel protein for animal feed

Insects as an alternative novel protein for animal feed

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There has been a rising demand in recent years for ingredients that are high in protein for livestock and aquaculture feed. However, frequently used ingredients such as soybean meal and fishmeal are shown to be having notable environmental impacts, such as deforestation and depletion of fish stocks.

This has created a need for the industry to consider alternative novel proteins that could be more sustainable, such as insect protein. ADAS has been commissioned by WWF-UK and Tesco to develop a roadmap for the scaling up of insect protein production for use in animal feed.

Insects as an alternative novel protein for animal feed

Increased demand for unsustainably sourced feed

The increased demand for soybean meal in livestock feed is driving a need for more land for the production of this crop, which is causing significant problems in the sourcing regions (e.g. South America) where natural habitats are being destroyed and converted to farmland. Similarly, the demand for fishmeal in aquaculture has resulted in overfishing in some regions, which is associated with accelerated depletion of fish stocks.

In order to help prevent these major environmental challenges, rival proteins that can displace or reduce the reliance on soybean meal and fishmeal are urgently required. Whilst there are a range of novel proteins emerging (e.g. algal, bacterial, and yeast-derived), the one with possibly the greatest potential is insect protein; particularly for animal feed for chickens, pigs and salmon.

To help address this global challenge, WWF-UK and Tesco have commissioned a new project to develop a roadmap for scaling of insect protein production for use in animal feed. The project, funded by WWF-UK’s ground-breaking partnership with Tesco, was awarded to an ADAS led consortium that includes leading agricultural law firm Michelmores LLP, and Multibox; a producer of insects from vegetable waste.

Image source: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/10/feature-why-insects-could-be-ideal-animal-feed

 

Scaling up the production of insect protein

The project will assess how the production of insect protein for animal feed can be scaled up, develop a roadmap to show the key steps that need to be taken, and provide recommendations on how the market can expand to displace fishmeal and soybean meal, taking into consideration the legal, market and operational constraints. The key objectives are to:

  • Evaluate the evidence base around insect protein production;
  • Assess a range of waste streams that could be utilised for insect production (e.g. black soldier fly);
  • Develop a roadmap that sets out how to rapidly scale insect protein production; and
  • Draft recommendations that overcome the key barriers and challenges (e.g. legislative, environmental, financial, operational, social etc.) to eventually realise the roadmap.

Project methodology

As part of the project, ADAS will undertake extensive stakeholder engagement across the insect production industry, including insect producers, feed producers/nutritionists, farmers (feed buyers), academics, industry (feed sellers), regulators, and the supply chain. This will be conducted through interviews and an online survey. We seek to capture the views from a range of organisations to ensure the recommendations reached are both feasible, sustainable, and consider the wider environmental and legislative objectives in the UK (e.g. the Agriculture Bill and Environment Bill).

If you are interested in finding out more about this project, would like to be included in the stakeholder engagement, or would like to be informed about the outputs of the project, please send your interest to the ADAS project manager – Charles Ffoulkes (charles.ffoulkes@adas.co.uk). 

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