Insects as feed

Insects as feed are insect species used as animal feed, either for livestock, including aquaculture, or as pet food.

The process of consuming insects by animals (as well as humans) is called entomophagy.


Due to their nutritional profile, especially the high protein content, various types of insects can be used as feed for industrial animal production and aquaculture. An insect-based diet for farm animals has been scientifically investigated for pigs, poultry and edible fish. Insects can provide as much protein and essential amino acids for swine and poultry that can potentially replace soybean meal in a diet.[1] Inclusion of black soldier fly larvae in a diet for fish farming gave positive effect with no difference in odor and texture.[2] At the same time, there are challenges and disadvantages compared to established feed in terms of performance and growth. For monogastric farm animals, such as swine and poultry, replacing their conventional formula entirely with insects can result to decrease in performance and growth e.g., because insect flour may contain high levels of ash.[3] Insects as feed are legally considered farm animals themselves, therefore they must not receive feed from ruminant proteins, kitchen and food waste, meat and bone meal and liquid manure.

With a view to protecting the environment and resources as well as feed and food security in the face of a growing world population, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for increased use of feed insects for feed production.[4]

Insect species with potential as feedEdit

Black-soldier flies, common house fly larvae and mealworms are some of the most common insects in animal feed production. Black soldier flies and common house flies often reside in manure piles and in organic wastes. Farming these insects could promote better manure and organic waste management, while providing nutritious feed ingredient to pets and livestock.[5]

Aside from nutritional composition and digestibility, insects are also selected for ease of rearing by the producer. A study compared insect species regarding their suitability as feed material, investigating their development time, survival rate, efficiency of converting base feed into insect biomass (FCR), dry matter conversion rate (EIC), and nitrogen efficiency (N-ECI).[6] In the table, values indicate the mean ± one standard deviation, and superscripts indicate significant differences.

Sample Size n Diet Survival rate Development time (days) FCR ECI N-ECI
Argentinian Cockroach 6 HPHF 80±17.9a 200±28.8c 1.7±0.24c 21±3.0b 58±8.3b
6 HPLF 47±16.3b 294±33.5a 2.3±0.35ab 16±2.7bc 51±8.7b
6 LPHF 53±13.2ab 266±29.3ab 1.5±0.19c 30±3.9a 87±11.4a
6 LPLF 51±12.2ab 237±14.9bc 1.7±0.15bc 18±1.9bc 66±6.7b
6 Control 75±21.7ab 211±18.7c 2.7±0.47a 14±2.1c 52±8.1b
Black Soldier Fly 6 HPHF 86±18.0 21±1.4c 1.4±0.12 24±1.5 51±3.2
6 HPLF 77±19.8 33±5.4ab 1.9±0.20 20±1.3 51±32.5
6 LPHF 72±12.9 37±10.6a 2.3±0.56 18±4.8 55±14.6
5 LPLF 74±23.5 37±5.8a 2.6±0.85 17±5.0 43±12.8
6 Control 75±31.0 21±1.1bc 1.8±0.71 23±5.3 52±12.2
Yellow Meal Worm 6 HPHF 79±7.0ab 116±5.2def 3.8±0.63c 12±2.7cdef 29±6.7cde
6 HPLF 67±12.3bc 144±13.0cd 4.1±0.25c 10±1.0def 22±2.3e
6 LPHF 19±7.3e 191±21.9ab 5.3±0.81c 8±0.8ef 28±2.8de
6 LPLF 52±9.2cd 227±26.9a 6.1±0.62c 7±1.0f 23±3.1de
6 Control 1 84±9.9ab 145±9.3cd 4.8±0.14c 9±0.2def 28±0.6cde
6 Control 2 34±15.0de 151±7.8bcd 4.1±0.49c 11±1.5cdef 31±4.2cde
6 HPHF-C 88±5.4ab 88±5.1f 4.5±0.17c 19±1.6ab 45±4.5b
6 HPLF-C 82±6.4ab 83±6.5f 5.8±0.48c 15±0.9bc 35±2.2bcd
6 LPHF-C 15±7.4e 135±17.3cde 19.1±5.93a 13±2.7cde 45±9.2ab
6 LPLF-C 80±5.6ab 164±32.9bc 10.9±0.61b 13±1.4cde 41±4.6bc
6 Control 1-C 93±9.3a 91±8.5f 5.5±0.49c 14±3.3bcd 45±2.4b
6 Control 2-C 88±3.1ab E95±8.0ef 5.0±0.48c 21±2.6a 58±7.3a
House cricket 6 HPHF 27±19.0ab 55±7.3c 4.5±2.84 8±4.9 23±13.4b
1 HPLF 6 117 10 3 -
3 LPHF 7±3.1b 167±4.4a 6.1±1.75 5±1.3 -
2 LPLF 11±1.4b 121±2.8b 3.2±0.69 9±2.2 -
6 Control 55±11.2a 48±2.3c 2.3±0.57 12±3.2 41±10.8a

HPHF = high protein, high fat; HPLF = high protein, low fat; LPHF = low protein, high fat; LPLF = low protein, low fat, C= carrot supplementation

Insects as feed in aquacultureEdit

In the European Union, the use of seven insect species as feed in aquaculture has been permitted since July 1, 2017:[7]

The inclusion of black soldier flies in the feed of farmed fish had positive results and showed no differences in taste or texture of the fish.[3]

Environment and sustainabilityEdit

As global populations rise, food demand is becoming an increasingly important issue. Raising conventional livestock requires resources such as land and water, of which availability is concurrently decreasing. As a result, the ability to meet the needs of the growing population may require alternative sources of quality protein.[8]

Producing insect protein through other agricultural practices requires considerably less resources than traditional livestock.[8] The production of insects also produces lower greenhouse gases and ammonia than traditional livestock species. Insects also have the ability to feed on organic waste products such as vegetable, restaurant and animal waste, therefore reducing the amount of excess food produced by humans.[9] Insects are very efficient at converting feed into protein, as they require less feed than traditional livestock.[5] Furthermore, water conservation is also accomplished as insects are cold blooded and are able to meet water requirements through their feed.[9]


The use of insects in feed in the European Union was previously prohibited under an act called "TSE Regulation" (Article 7 and Annex IV of Regulation 999/2001) that bans the use of animal protein in animal feed. In July 2017 this regulation was revised and partially lifts the ban on animal proteins, allowing insects to be included in fish feed.

This was coupled with another change that reclassified insects in the European Union (EU) catalogue of feed materials. This change specifically references to insect fats and insects proteins instead of classifying them under a broad title of animal products. Due to this change, producers now must list the species and life stage of the insect on their product.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Makkar, H., Tran, G., Heuze, V., Ankers, P. (November 2014). "State-of-the-art on use of insects as animal feed". Animal Feed Science and Technology. 197: 1–33. doi:10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2014.07.008.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Reuters/Karl Plume (13. April 2018): Insect farms gear up to feed soaring global protein demand.
  3. ^ a b Makkar, H., Tran, G., Heuze, V., Ankers, P. (2014): State-of-the-art on use of insects as animal feed. In: Animal Feed Science and Technology. Vol. 197, pp. 1–33.
  4. ^ FAO (2013): The contribution of insects to food security, livelihoods and the environment.
  5. ^ a b van, Huis, Arnold. Edible insects : future prospects for food and feed security. Rome. ISBN 9789251075968. OCLC 868923724.
  6. ^ Oonincx, Dennis G. A. B; Van Broekhoven, Sarah; Van Huis, Arnold; Van Loon, Joop J. A (2015). "Feed Conversion, Survival and Development, and Composition of Four Insect Species on Diets Composed of Food By-Products". PLOS ONE. 10 (12): e0144601. Bibcode:2015PLoSO..1044601O. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0144601. PMC 4689427. PMID 26699129.
  7. ^ Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/893 of 24 May 2017 amending Annexes I and IV to Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Annexes X, XIV and XV to Commission Regulation (EU) No 142/2011 as regards the provisions on processed animal protein
  8. ^ a b Premalatha, M (November 5, 2017). "Energy-efficient food production to reduce global warming and ecodegradation: The use of edible insects" (PDF). Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 15 (9): 4357–4360. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2011.07.115.
  9. ^ a b Rumpold, B.A., & Schlüter O.K. (2013) Potential and challenges of insects as an innovative source for food and feed production.Innov Food Sci Emerg Technol 17, 1–11.
  10. ^ "EU Legislation - IPIFF". Retrieved 2017-11-22.

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit