Insects in pig and poultry diets.


Insects as a sustainable feed ingredient in pig and poultry diets

Published on
October 16, 2012

Insects can be a sustainable feed ingredient in pig and poultry diets. The use of insects as a sustainable protein-rich ingredient in pig and poultry diets is technically feasible.

The most important bottlenecks before insects can be used at a large scale as animal feed ingredients are in the areas of legislation and the speed at which an increase in scale of insect production and cost price reduction can be realised. This is shown in a feasibility study by Wageningen UR, funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.

The most frequently used protein rich ingredients in pig and poultry diets are fish meal, soy bean meal, extracted sunflower seed and extracted rape seed. The global demand for animal protein for human consumption is increasing and with this also the price of these ingredients. Alternative protein rich raw materials for the livestock industry are therefore needed. Insects can be a sustainable alternative protein rich ingredient, particularly if they are reared on substrates of bio-waste and organic side streams. Insects are cold-blooded and can therefore efficiently turn low- grade bio-waste into high quality proteins.

Protein content of insect species

In the Netherlands there are approximately 18 relatively small-scale insect rearing companies that produce for zoos and pet shops. The end product can be insect meal or an insoluble protein fraction. The most suitable insect species for large-scale production are: Black soldier fly, Common housefly and the Yellow mealworm. The raw protein content of insects varied considerably among the insect species and life stages, but also within. The largest raw protein content was found for the pupae of the housefly (65.7% of the dry matter) and the smallest for larvae of the black soldier fly (38.9 % of the dry matter).

Increasing scale

If 5% of the compound feed for broilers in The Netherlands is replaced by insects, approximately 75 kilotonnes of insects will be needed. A feasible production unit of insects can produce approximately 1 tonne a day (so 365 tonnes per year). For this volume, approximately 200 insect facilities are necessary. For large-scale application, increasing scale is therefore necessary.


In the area of legislation there are some bottlenecks to be able to really use insects as an ingredient in animal feed. Insects are considered to be animal protein and this, due to the TSE-legislation, must not be used in pig and poultry diets. The GMP+-certificate is to be adjusted for insects. In the Animal Act [Wet dieren]– in effect as of 2013 – account should be taken of rearing insects. Animal welfare and killing methods have, for example, not been described and studied sufficiently yet. As to the Act Environmental Control, there are probably only few bottlenecks, because production of greenhouse gas of insects is lower than that of livestock.