More and more animal products are consumed worldwide, although vegan and vegetarian diet styles are becoming increasingly popular in western countries. This growing demand requires a substantial amount of protein-rich feed for farm animals. However, the cultivation of animal feed is often accompanied by changes in land use such as deforestation. Future protein feed should therefore become independent of arable land. Insect breeding and microalgae cultivation could serve as an alternative source of protein. Researchers at the University of Göttingen have found that the meat quality of chickens fed with certain insects or microalgae is suitable for consumption. The results can be found in the journal Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
In the study, chickens with soy, spirulina or insects as the main source of protein in the feed were fattened and examined for their meat quality. The focus was on their growth performance, the meat quality under industrial packaging conditions and their sensory properties. The analysis of the meat from 132 animals showed that both flour from larvae of the black soldier fly and the microalgae Spirulina can be used in poultry feed without major loss of quality. Chickens that are fed with the larvae flour produce meat that corresponds to the current status quo. If, on the other hand, the chickens are fed with spirulina, both the meat color and the taste are more intense. “Overall, both protein sources have proven to be suitable and therefore represent a suitable alternative to soy”, says first author Dr. Brianne Altmann from the product quality department at the University of Göttingen.
Microalgae are already produced worldwide for biofuels, animal feed and human consumption, but are more expensive than soybean meal. In the European Union, insects are currently only permitted as feed for fish. However, it is expected that they will also be approved as poultry feed in the near future. To do this, however, insects must be produced using certified feed. “However, the production of insects as feed is only really sustainable if residues and waste materials are also likely to be used as feed,” explains department head Prof. Dr. Daniel Mörlein.
The study took place as part of the project “Sustainability Transitions in Food Production”.
Here is a link to the original publication.