When soybean cake was replaced by insect meal, no drop in feed intake or egg production was noticed, a recent trial showed.
Soybean cake is a main protein source for pigs and poultry in Europe. Using this protein source as animal feed is controversial due to its potentially negative environmental and social impacts. At the same time, initial results with insect meal, as a potential soybean meal replacer, shows promise.
A Swiss research team therefore set up a feeding trial with partly de-fatted meal of dried Hermetia illucens (Black Soldier Fly) larvae (Hermetia meal) reared on vegetarian by-products of the pasta and convenience food industry was carried out in small groups of Lohmann Selected Leghorn laying hens (four rounds, 10 hens/round).
Experimental diets H12 and H24 contained 12 and 24 g/100 g Hermetia meal replacing 50 or 100% of soybean cake used in the control feed, respectively. After 3 weeks of feeding experimental diets, there were no significant differences between feeding groups with regard to performance (egg production, feed intake). There was a tendency (P=0.06) for lower albumen weight in the H24 group; yolk and shell weights did not differ.
No mortality and no sign of health disorders occurred. Plumage as well as wound scores remained stable during the feeding period and did not differ between treatments. Dry matter of faeces increased with increasing proportions of Hermetia meal in the diet, with a significant difference between H24 and the control (P=0.03). An increase of black faecal pads was observed in the H12 and H24 groups.
Overall, these results suggest Hermetia meal can be a valuable component of layer diets. However, insect meal production still has to become economically more viable through upscaling production and, especially, legislative issues have to be solved.
The full study, published in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed, can be read here.