Insects in food and animal feed

Published on
May 23, 2022

The Dutch government aims to extract as much value from waste streams and by-products of the food system as possible. Insects are naturally well suited to thrive on various types of biomass. They could thus form part of the solution for a circular farming system and economy.

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) conducted literature research on the current scientific insights on insect breeding, the use of waste streams as a substrate for insect breeding, and the safety aspects of using insects in food and feed. The report (‘Use of insects for food and feed’) will serve as a foundation for experiments within a public-private ‘SAFE INSECTS’ collaborative project.

Ambitions in the insect sector

With this report, WUR supports the Dutch insect sector, which wishes to increase its use of organic waste streams as a source of nutrients for breeding to 100% by 2030. These waste streams and by-products (that include supermarket mix, poultry manure, by-products from the slaughtering industry, fruits, vegetables and food waste from consumer households), as possible, are the main topics in the report. Organic waste streams are generated at different stages in the agri-food chain and the gardening sector. Consider, for example, the primary sector, processing industry, retail, catering and consumers. The use of these waste streams is currently prohibited. However, safe usage of waste streams for insect breeding and wider applications within the food system could provide a valuable contribution to circular agriculture and reduction of CO2 and nitrogen emissions. For this circular solution to be a viable option, research must be conducted to ensure food and feed safety.

Project ‘Safe insects’

The ‘Safe insects’ project, which is currently underway, studies the safety of feed and food for animals and humans. Moreover, the technical feasibility of breeding insects in waste streams is studied. The study focuses on, among others, the following selected waste streams: poultry manure, fruit and food waste from household kitchens and supermarket mix (foods that have reached their expiration date or are unsellable) and slaughterhouse by-products. The selected insects that are to be bred are the yellow mealworm and the black soldier fly.

Next steps

Based on the literature study, experiments will be conducted within the ‘Safe insects’ project. The experiments will be carried out at WUR, in collaboration with HAS university college and (inter)national private partners. The report is also useful in follow-up activities such as selecting the parameters for food and feed safety, design and setup of insect breeding experiments and optimising substrates.