Insects could be future of pig feed, argues specialist

Pigs could be feeding on insects such as maggots and fly larvae by 2020, according to pig feed specialist Mick Hazzledine.

Speaking at the Bpex Innovation Conference 2014, held at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire, Hazzledine explained that using insect protein for pig feed could prove a solution to a number of challenges faced by the industry.

He said: “There’s a lot of research going into it, it’s a serious issue. There’s no doubt some of this insect protein is extremely high-quality. It’s very high in protein and high in fat.

“Insects are part of the diet of two billion people and, in Thailand, there are 20,000 cricket farms. They grow on vegetable matter and with their feed conversion rate, it starts to make you think, ‘Perhaps it’s not that daft this insect farming’.”

He quoted Erik-Jan Lock, from Norway’s National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research, who said: “We throw away 20% of our food. This could be a sustainable source for insect production, which on a global scale could produce three times more protein than current soya protein production.”

Hazzledine said there were already some big, well-funded projects researching the subject, including Proteinsect and Greeninsect. Proteinsect is focused on rearing two species of fly and conducting feeding trials on fish, chickens and pigs.

The Dutch are apparently leading the way in introducing insect meal, with feed company Coppens signing a deal with insect producer Protix Biosystems to include it in livestock feed when legislation allows. Protix expects the protein will be legal as of next summer, and Coppens has agreed on the use of 200 tonnes of insect fat and 300 tonnes of insect protein from the black soldier fly.

The feed industry is facing a number of issues – for example, nitrogen and phosphorous output is likely to increase and carbon footprint is becoming increasingly important. The presentation looked at a number of things pigs could be eating in the future as these challenges have an increasing impact. As well as insects, Hazzledine discussed crystalline amino acids, yeast and algae as potential sources.

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