Feed of the future?
urrently, Europe’s high demand for feed protein is largely met through imported soya. Around 80 percent of crop proteins per year are imported, with 60 percent used for livestock feed. At the same time, per-capita meat consumption is increasing in developing countries. To address this growing demand for meat, novel and additional sources of protein for animal feed must be identified. For generations, insects have been a valuable source of protein for human consumption across continents other than Europe. With increasing demand for food worldwide, particularly meat and fish, insects also have the potential to be utilised as a natural ingredient in high-protein animal feed. They are far cheaper and require fewer resources to rear than traditional sources. For the past four years, the EC-funded project PROteINSECT has been evaluating insects as a novel source of protein for animal feed, whilst ensuring that methodologies are sustainable, safe and economically viable. The project has 12 partners from seven countries across Europe, Africa and Asia and is coordinated by Fera Science Ltd in the United Kingdom. The project is investigating the use of fly larvae, fed on a range of organic waste materials, as a protein source. There is already considerable expertise in this area in Mali, Ghana and China, and PROteINSECT has connected with partners in these countries. The project will close in April this year. Dr Elaine Fitches from FERA Science Ltd, Co-ordinator of the PROteINSECT global consortium, said at the project’s launch in 2012, “The potential of insects as a source of valuable protein has been recognised by scientists for a number of years. With expertise in entomology and food safety, [Fera Science Ltd] is ideally placed to lead the evaluation of insects as a sustainable source of protein in animal feed.”
48 | January 2016 - Milling and Grain
Consumer acceptance, the first hurdle
One of the main challenges to the introduction of insects to animal feed (and human food) in Europe is consumer perception. There is little point in making meat fed on insects publicly available if no one will buy it. To map attitudes, PROteINSECT launched two separate consumer surveys. The first ran from October 2013 to April 2014, and second from March to October 2015. Each had over 1300 respondents across 71 countries. The first survey quizzed participants on whether they would be happy to eat chicken, pork or fish derived from animals fed with insect protein. Over 70 percent of respondents stated that they would be willing to do this and only 6.5 percent said that they would not. This was a surprisingly positive response considering the unfamiliarity of insects as food and feed in Western cultures and their reputation as a ‘novelty food’. The overwhelming majority (88.2%) of respondents said more information should be available on the use of insects as a food source for both animals and humans. More than half (52.4%) would be put off eating meat fed on a diet containing insect