Industry stakeholders call for debate on insects as food and feed

Signal of change / Industry stakeholders call for debate on insects as food and feed

By Alex Caldwell / 15 May 2015

A new food industry trade body has been formed with the purpose of lobbying the European Union (EU) to promote insect products as a source of protein for both animal feed and for human consumption. The International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPFF) is formed by insect producers who want their product available to EU farmers companies and consumers.

Current EU legislation on animal feed is not compatible with using insects and it is uncertain when this will be rectified. Producers want to use 100% vegetable-raised insect-meal as a protein source for aquaculture, poultry and pigs feed. Without clarity in the legislation, further investment and development of these processes will be forthcoming. Vice President of IPFF Tarique Arsiwalla said, “Insect derived products are being developed at industrial scale by companies which comply with stringent risk management procedures. They can now be used in nutritional and functional feed applications at competitive prices, whilst complying with EU highest standards in terms of food & feed safety.”

A study conducted by Ghent University published in the journal Animal Feed Science and Technology found increasing acceptance of the concept of animals as livestock feed among consumers, farmers and other agricultural stakeholders, with only 17% of the 415 interviewed rejecting the idea. The survey was carried in a livestock-heavy region of Flanders, Belgium, the agricultural stakeholders were most in favour, followed by consumers and then farmers. 

Previously, the biggest barrier to integrating insects in to a western food system has been the “disgust factor”; a 2013 report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said tailored media communication strategies and educational programmes will be needed to overcome this. The next challenge for an insect based animal feed system will be to ensure the cost-effective, reliable production of an insect biomass of high and consistent quality as achieved in the rest of food production.

Image: Silk worm larvae for starters? 
Image credit: Alpha / Flickr

So what?

It takes 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef and globally an average of 40% of grain production is for livestock feed ,with the 70% in increased demand for meat and animal products expected by 2050, a more efficient use of resources available will be necessary.

The majority of livestock animals, such as chicken or pigs, would have eaten insects as part of their diet before they became domesticated; feeding them insects would eliminate the need for farmed fishmeal. In the UK, around 165,000 tonnes of fishmeal are used each year, with 38 per cent of this coming from trimmings from fish used for human consumption.

Given the projected increases in grain prices, insect-based feed would add a nutritious, low impact alternative to soymeal or fishmeal which are currently very popular agricultural feeds, but are likely to become more expensive and less sustainable. Insects could also contribute to closed loop food systems as they could be fed from food or agricultural waste produced further up the supply chain.

Sources

AgriLand (2015, April 19) Call for legislation for insect products to be animal feed

Global Meat News (2015, April 17) Insects as animal feed viewed favourably

Fast Co Exist (2013, May 16) A grand plan for feeding the world with insects

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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