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Sustainable source of protein

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The search for an alternative for soy in chicken feed

The Netherlands has about 100 million commercially held chickens, which together consume around 4 million tonnes of feed per year. Soy is their main protein source. However, soy has various important disadvantages. First of all, the production of soybean threatens tropical rainforest, resulting in biodiversity loss. In addition, soy production costs are increasing worldwide. And last but not least, from a nutritional point of view chickens would be better off with animal protein, compared to soy protein. Time for an innovative solution!

Insect derived protein: a sustainable alternative

Under natural conditions chickens spend their days pecking and scratching for food. Seeds and grains, but also insects form an important part of their diet. Hence the idea to include insect protein in commercial chicken feed. Insects can be mass-produced in a sustainable manner: greenhouse gas emissions, manure production, and space and energy requirements are relatively low. Moreover, waste is minimal as almost all parts of the insect are edible. Hence, insect protein could be a promising innovation, providing a safe and sustainable alternative for soy in animal feed.

Insect protein tested in practice

The project 'Chicken and egg: Exploring the use of sustainable insect protein in poultry feed' aims to investigate the practical application of insect protein in chicken feed. While literature studies have already shown the potential of using insect protein to meet the protein needs of poultry, this project is testing insect protein in practice. For example, researchers from the Louis Bolk Institute and other organisations are looking at the production and processing of insects such as mealworms (based on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)), and assessing the effects of insect-based feed on chicken health and welfare.

Chickens raised on insect-based feed

Many questions need to be answered before the use of insect protein in poultry feed could become common practice. Under which legal conditions is the use of insect proteins in animal feed permitted? What quality standards should be required for insect proteins? How can insect production and processing be standardised? What is the storability of feed containing insect protein? And last but not least: what effect does insect-based feed have on chicken health and welfare, and on egg and meat quality? The ultimate objective is to provide consumers with tasty, healthy and safely produced eggs and poultry meat.

About the project Chicken and Egg

The project Chicken and Egg (2013-2015) is an initiative of the Louis Bolk Institute, New Generation Nutrition, Venik, Kreca, Ruig Wild & Gevogelte, Coppens Animal Feed, Vivara and Vitelia Feed. The project is funded by the Dutch Poultry Production Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe Investing in Rural Areas. Research results were published in a press release and brochure (in Dutch).



 Mealworm proteine is a good alternative for soy in poulty feed