Insect oil: A sustainable alternative for poultry feed

Insect oil: A sustainable alternative for poultry feed

In tests, consumers accept the benefits of the novel diet ingredient.

Insect oils can boost poultry welfare, growth and performance while also lowering the overall environmental impact of feed production.

The larvae of the black soldier fly produces two alternative ingredients that can be used in poultry diets: insect oils, which functions as an alternative to soy protein in poultry diets, and insect protein, which is high in energy.

“Insect oil is kind of a super ingredient. It’s a very rigid lauric acid, like what you find in coconut oil. That means that it combines both antimicrobial and antioxidant properties,” explained InnovaFeed vice president, Maye Walraven

As a feed alternative, insect production is 80-90% less carbon intensive and has a lower environmental impact than other oils used in poultry diets, including soy oil and palm oil.

Feeding insect oil can also have poultry welfare benefits. In trials, researchers found that insect oil resulted in fewer pecking and other behavioral indicators of stress, while promoting curiosity in the birds.

When fed as a pellet with an inclusion rate of 2-4%, insect oil boosts the growth and performance rate of broilers.

How insect oil is made

Insects are bred in significant numbers in large-scale factory conditions that can require a smaller environmental footprint than soybean meal and fishmeal, depending on the source of the feedstock fed to the insects.

“You have to imagine a very large warehouse where the larvae grow. We control all the ambient conditions, very much like vertical farming with plants, but for insects,” Walraven said.

“We try to have the product be as close as the nutrients that nature would bring if a chicken were eating insects in the wild.”

Consumer acceptance of the alternative poultry feedstuff

In France, acceptance of insect oil as an alternative poultry feedstuff has been tested throughout the supply chain. 

“We have an insect-fed label on poultry in the supermarket so that consumers are aware of this new ingredient and why it’s important in terms of sustainability and the naturality of the chicken,” said Walraven. 

“We’ve also had independent panels tasting and ensuring that there was no negative impact on the quality and the taste of the chicken.”