Market Opens Up to Use of Insect Protein in Animal Feed
16 Apr 2015 --- European legislation should be adapted to allow insect products as a sustainable and innovative source of animal proteins for food consumption and animal feed. Insect producers issued this call this week in Brussels, where they came together to formally establish IPIFF, the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed.
“Our planet faces huge challenges because of the growing population and increasing competition for scarce resources, and we believe that insects are part of the solution,” said IPIFF’s president Antoine Hubert. “That’s why we joined forces to create IPIFF, so that we can speak to the EU institutions and partners from the food & feed chain with one voice. As a pivotal actor in this process we will strive to make insect protein available to EU farmers, companies and consumers.”
The launch comes in the same week as a study is published that confirms farmer and consumer approval for the use of insect protein in animal feed.
A research team from Ghent University’s Faculty of Bioscience Engineering interviewed 196 farmers, 137 agriculture sector stakeholders and 82 citizen/consumers about their attitudes, product attribute beliefs, perceived benefits, risks and concerns, and willingness-to-accept and use insect-based animal feed and the resulting livestock products.
The study was performed in January 2015 in Flanders, the northern Dutch-speaking region of Belgium with a highly specialized intensive livestock farming industry.
Agriculture sector stakeholders reported the most favorable attitude towards the use of insects in animal feed (average score of 4.16 on a scale from 1 to 5), followed by citizens (3.89) and farmers (3.83). This idea was most warmly welcomed for fish and poultry feed, followed by pig feed, and to a lower extent pet food and cattle feed. Feed with insects was perceived to be more sustainable, to have a better nutritive value for animals, but a lower microbiological safety as compared to conventional feed. Resulting livestock products were perceived to be more sustainable, nutritious and healthy, but also to contain allergens and possible off-flavors, and to be less easily marketable and less acceptable.
Eggs and poultry meat from animals fed on insect-based diets were rejected by 17% of the study sample; beef and milk from cattle fed on insect-based diets were rejected by 25%.
The strongest perceived benefits of using insects in animal feed pertained to lowering livestock industry’s dependence on foreign protein sources and better valorization of organic waste. The strongest perceived risks were about possible impacts on biodiversity in case of accidental release of non-native insects and about the introduction of microbiological hazards in the food chain.
Consumer acceptance, legislation, communication, and the attitude of retailers were flagged as the main concerns. Benefit perception was generally stronger than risk perception, and it outweighed risk perception and concerns as a determinant of willingness-to-accept the use of insects in animal feed.
The main determinant of accepting the use of insects in animal feed was a person’s own willingness to eat insect-based foods. “The more people believed that insects are wholesome and acceptable as food for themselves as human beings, the stronger their belief that insects fit as an ingredient for animal feed as well,” said professor Wim Verbeke, lead author of the study. “The insights from this study confirm that the policy debate should focus primarily on the use insects in feed for fish, poultry, and pigs, whereas lower interest and acceptance of milk, dairy products and beef from insect-fed cattle among farmers, stakeholders and consumers indicate that the use of insects in feed for cattle is not currently an issue,” according to the study authors.
The authors conclude that the overall positive atmosphere surrounding the idea of using insects in animal feed, as it emerges from this study, indicates the momentum is right to move forward with the policy debate and take advantage of this novel source of protein for use in animal feed.
According to IPIFF, current EU legislation is not tailored to insect proteins specificities. This lack of legal certainty is jeopardising the investments and production plans of companies, thus restricting the availability of this promising source of protein for EU farmers & customers.
In the EU, insect companies mainly produce for pet food. However, the potential for insect meal is huge, especially for the aquaculture feed sector. IPIFF is asking for the revision of the EU feed legislation in order to allow insect products reared on 100% vegetables substrates to be used as sources of proteins for aquaculture, poultry and pigs.
“Production techniques have been developed in recent years and are now being deployed at industrial scale by companies which comply with stringent risk management procedures. Insect derived products can therefore be used in nutritional and functional feed applications at competitive prices, whilst complying with EU highest standards in terms of food & feed safety”, said IPIFF’s vice-president Tarique Arsiwalla.
IPIFF was launched at the Brussels meeting on Monday by insect-producing companies from the Netherlands, France, Germany and South Africa. The association is open to firms that are part of the feed and food value chain.
The launch was followed by a meeting with high level representatives of the EU institutions and stakeholders. Wolfgang Trunk, responsible for animal nutrition at the European Commission’s directorate-general for health and food safety (DG Santé), appreciated the fact that the insect producers have now merged their forces: “We are happy that we now have one counterpart in our day-to-day contacts.”
The launch of IPIFF was also greeted by Pekka Pesonen, head of the European farmers and agri-cooperatives organisation Copa-Cogeca – who stressed the importance of communicating openly towards partners and consumers on the benefits of insect-based proteins – and by Alexander Döring, secretary-general of the European Compound Feed Industry FEFAC.
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