Insects are regarded as an alternative with high potential because the production of insects demands limited amounts of water and land, and they can add value to low-value by-products.
The black soldier fly or Hermetia illucens is the most common insect used in insect meal for animal feed. The dry weight of Black Soldier Fly larvae (BSFL) contain up to 50% crude protein(CP), up to 35% lipids and have an amino acid profile that is similar to that of fishmeal. They are recognized and utilized as alternative sources of protein for feed of poultry, pigs, and several species of fish and shrimp.
Using insects as animal feed has additional benefits, not just for nutrition, but also in terms of animal health. Research is being carried out into whether insects can be helpful for reducing the use of antibiotics. For instance, you can boost the immune system of animals by feeding insects and chitin works as a probiotic. Also, the black soldier fly has been investigated for its antimicrobial properties and, in pigs, the lauric acid from this fly can prevent diarrhoea. These health effects make insects very interesting as animal feed and quite a lot of research is currently being done in this field.
In Europe, insect production is a relativity new and fast emerging sector, but legislation has yet to catch up. Insects are classified as farmed animals and can only be fed with feed ingredients that are authorised for farmed animals, such as plant origin material, eggs, milk and derived products. This is creating several challenging issues. In 2017 the use of insects in aqua feed was authorised. And in 2021 for pigs and poultry.
In the USA, BSFL can be used in feed for salmonids and poultry.
In Canada, whole dried insect larvae can be used in feed for salmonids, tilapia, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys.