Insects – the new animal feed in the EU

24.10.2017  /  Scienceandmore  /  Category: Animal Biology

Could insects be used to feed livestock and what would be the benefits to use insects compared to conventional animal feed?

This is the first of several consecutive articles that discuss the utilisation of insects as animal feed. Here, the legislative aspects for insects in the EU, animal feed in general, the use of insects for certain animals, and potential hazards are introduced.


Livestock are of paramount importance for human diet and even though the proportions vary from country to country, on average around 95 % of the worldwide population eats meat (1).

In 2016, livestock that mainly consists of cows, pigs, poultry and shellfish/fish has been fed with more than one billion tons of feed. Approximately 44 % of the total animal feed was produced for poultry, followed by around 27 % for pigs, 22 % for cattle, and 4 % for animals in aquaculture (2).

Poultry, which is a generic term for mostly chickens, turkeys, quails, ducks and geese, is mainly fed with grains but also soy and fishmeal as a protein source. Pigs as omnivorous animals are also fed with grains, soy and fishmeal, as well as with oilseed meals, root crops and legumes. Cattle as herbivorous animals get grass and small amounts of grain and soy. Fish in aquaculture are mostly carnivorous, such as salmon and trout, and are commonly fed fishmeal in pellet form, but also soy, grains and legumes as cheaper protein and nutrient sources (3-6).

It is apparent that fishmeal and soy are crucial parts of animal feed. Approximately 16 to 17 million tons of wild fish (caught in the ocean) are processed into fishmeal and fish oil (including 5 million tons of fish trimmings) annually. The majority of this fishmeal and oil is used in aquacultures to rear fish for human consumption (6). However, prices for fishmeal have been risen due to high demand, especially since 2010/11, and in consequence to increased production of fish in aquacultures, farmers started to rely more on protein-rich plant-based materials for feed (6-8). The crops that are used are mainly imported from non-EU countries. In fact, only around 30 % of these crops are produced inside the EU and 70 % are imported from Brazil, Argentina and the USA. The import amounts to approximately 30 million tons annually, and soy is a major part of it. Significantly, 80% of the world’s soybean production is used as animal feed (6,7).


An alternative to fishmeal and soy could have been found in insect meal. Insects in general consist of approximately 40 to 60 % protein and up to 36 % of fat that could be fed separately as insect meal and insect oil (9). Insects are naturally eaten by cattle, pigs, poultry and fish as part of their species-appropriate diet (7). It is also not a new idea to use insects as a part of animal feed, specifically insect protein. However, in Europe during the 90s, there was a wide-ranging mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)) occurrence that was caused by feeding cows proteins from the remains of other cows, i.e. processed animal protein. Subsequently, almost all processed animal protein including insect protein was prohibited to be used as animal feed in the EU. An exemption was protein from fish.

Nevertheless, efforts were made to change EU legislation and finally on 1st of July 2017, processed animal protein from insects was allowed to be used for animals in aquaculture (EU-enactment 2017/893) … however, only seven specific insect species received approval!

Before addressing the approved insect species, here are the most important arguments in favour of insects:

1) Insects meal can partly substitute for fishmeal and plant-based components in feed.  Studies in livestock showed that insect meal could substitute fishmeal in feed to a certain degree (9). Fishmeal that is used to feed poultry, pigs and fish in aquaculture is produced from wild fish caught in the oceans. Using insect meal instead could therefore possibly prevent overfishing.

Plant-based components in fish feed have disadvantages compared to fishmeal, such as less palatability, anti-nutritional components, high fibre content, non-starch polysaccharides, and a different amino acid profile. Insects, on the contrary, are much lower in fibre and anti-nutritional content, and it has been proposed that they have a better suited amino acid profile than plant based components (10,11).

Since insect meal is only allowed to feed animals in aquaculture in the EU, the following article will focus on the utilisation of insect meal in this sector.

2) Insects require less space and energy for cultivation compared to soy. Soybean cultivation in the South American countries led to a drastic change in land use, most significant to a deforestation, as well as decreased soil fertility, ruined biodiversity and the use of tremendous amounts of water (6). Even though soy will most likely remain as one of the protein source in animal feed in the near future, insect protein could partly replace it. Consequently, the impact of soy cultivation on the environment could be reduced.

Compared to soybeans, insects are very efficient in utilising energy. Since they are cold-blooded, they do not expend energy to regulate their body temperature, so energy can be used for growth and development. A study showed that the production of 1 ton of crickets, which equals to around 600 kg of protein, requires around 2.8 tons of feed and a surface of 3,100 m2. For soy, estimations suggest that the production of 1 ton, which equals to around 50 kg of protein, requires around 3,200 m2 of land and takes one year (9,12,13). The life cycle of the cricket species Acheta domesticus on the other hand takes only two to three months! Obviously, the cricket feed/substrate also needs to be calculated in order to estimate if rearing crickets would be feasible, ecologically and economically. But that is the great aspect of insect cultivation… insects can feed on organic waste.

3) Insects have a broad range of substrates they can thrive on, such as food waste. In Germany, around 9.6 million tons, in Italy 5.7 million tons, in the UK 5 million tons, in France 3.7 million tons, and in all 28 EU member countries combined 31.2 million tons food waste were produced in 2014. This comprises animal and vegetable waste (14). This food waste could be used to rear insects and represents a cheap and even revenue-generating substrate. After rearing, the residual substrate could be used as fertiliser for crop production or as material to remediate soil, as it is still rich and accessible in nutrients and minerals. Investigations showed that the larvae of black soldier flies, one of the insect species that is approved for animal feed production, reduced the volume of organic waste by up to 60 % in just 10 days (7).

However, EU legislation does not allow the utilisation of food waste as substrate for insects that are meant for animal feed production (according to EG 999/2001 and EG 767/2009), due to the danger of a possible accumulation of chemicals and toxins in insects. These potentially hazardous substances could eventually accumulate in animals, generate allergens or, even worse, disease and would pose harm to the animals and humans upon consumption of the livestock.

4) Insects can be cultivated all year around. Most crop plants used for animal feed production are primarily cultivated in the field and are therefore seasonally restricted in their cultivation. Insects, however, can be reared all year around indoors. They would however require stable temperatures for optimal growth and development.


5) The use of insects as animal feed could lead to more independence from the import of raw material for animal feed production and result in a more stable market for animal feed in the EU. This is especially important since the demand of Asian countries for raw material continuously increases. Additionally, the American countries that are the major producers of soybeans are not liable to the strict regulations of GMO use of EU legislation (6,7).

Sometimes, implementing changes to improve handling of environmental and ecological issues can be motivated by financial gains. In 2014, 980 million tons of animal feed were produced, and in 2016 the production increased to over 1 billion tons worldwide, which translate to a value of approximately $460 billion (approximately €390 billion) (15,2), and makes the animal feed sector a lucrative sector for innovations. These numbers represent the whole animal feed sector but the changes in EU legislation only affect the aquaculture sector. Here, the production of animals in aquaculture increases constantly. In 2012, it already reached 1.108 million tons of animals with a commercial value of almost €3.4 billion in the EU alone (7). It has to be pointed out that the EU is the no. 1 fish importer worldwide, with imports valued at US$54 billion (approximately €45.6 billion) in 2014 (16). Similarly, feed for domestic animals in aquaculture is mostly imported as well (only 5.9 million tons of feed for these animals was produced in Europe itself in 2014) (15). Production of sustainable feed and rearing of greater numbers of animals in aquaculture in the EU could decrease the need to import them to satisfy domestic consumption.


1. FOE (2014) Meat Atlas – Facts and Figures About the Animals We Eat. [online] FOE Europe. Available at: [Accessed 16.10.2017].
2. Alltech (2016) Global Feed Survey. [online] Alltech. Available at: [Accessed 16.10.2017].
3. Food Standards Agency. What farm animals eat. [online] Food Standards Agency. Available at: [Accessed 16.10.2017].
4. Lázaro, R., Mateos, G.G., Latorre, M.M., Javier, P. (2015) Whole soybeans in diets for poultry. American Soybean Association
5. McGlone, J., Pond, W.G. (2003) Pig production: biological principles and applications. pp. 191. Cengage Learning, NY, USA.
6. Stamer, A. (2015). Insect proteins – a new source for animal feed: The use of insect larvae to recycle food waste in high-quality protein for livestock and aquaculture feeds is held back largely owing to regulatory hurdles. EMBO Reports, 16(6), 676–80.
7. PROteINSECT (2016) Insect Protein – Feed for the Future. [online] Minerva Communications UK Ltd. Available at: [Accessed 16.10.2017].
8. Van Huis, A., van Itterbeeck, J., Klunder, H., Mertens, E., Halloran, A., Muir, G., Vantomme, P. (2013) Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security. FAO Forestry Paper 171: 89-97.
9. Makkar, H.P.S., Tran, G., Heuzé, V., Ankers, P. (2014) State-of-the-art on use of insects as animal feed. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 197, 1-33.
10. Sanchez-Muros, M.-J., F.G. Barroso, and F. Manzano-Agugliaro (2014) Insect meal as renewable source of food for animal feeding: A review. J. Clean. Prod. 65:16–27.
11. Tran, G., Heuzé, V., Makkar, H.P.S. () Inserts in fish diets. Animal Frontiers 5(2): 37-44.
12. Langemeier, M., and E. Lunik (2015) International Benchmarks for Soybean Production. farmdoc daily (5):225.
13. Collavo, A., Glew, R.H., Huang, Y.S., Chuang, L.T., Bosse, R., Paoletti, M.G. (2005) House cricket small-scale farming. In: Ecological implications of minilivestock: potential of insects, rodents, frogs and snails. (ed. by Paoletti, M.G.), pp. 519–544. New Hampshire, Science Publishers.
14. Eurostat (2016) Waste generated by households by year and waste category – Animal and vegetable wastes. [online] Eurostat. Available at: [Accessed 16.10.2017]
15. Alltech (2015) 2015 Global Feed Survey. [online] Alltech. Available at: [Accessed 16.10.2017]
16. FAO (2016) The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016. Contributing to food security and nutrition for all. Rome.



  1. mezo says:

    Have you ever thlught aƅout pubishing ɑn e-book oг guest authoring օn օther sites?
    I have a blog based uρon on the same subjects y᧐u
    discuss and ԝould love tto һave you share sme stories/іnformation. I know my
    audience ᴡould vaⅼue yoᥙr work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me
    an e mail.

    1. scienceandmore says:

      Hi Mezo, sounds good. However, I can’t find your email address.

  2. Apprеciate thіs post. Lеt mе try it оut.

  3. Aly johnson says:

    Having read this I believed itt was very informative.
    I appreciatee you taking the time and energy to put this content together.
    I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and commenting.
    But sso what, it was still worth it!

  4. What’s Happening i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It positively helpful and it has helped
    me out loads. I’m hoping to give a contribution & aid other users
    like its aided me. Good job.

  5. An impressive share! Ӏ have jᥙst forwarded tһis օnto a friend ᴡһo
    һad beеn conducting a little research on thiѕ.
    Αnd he in fact օrdered me lunch bеcɑuse I fߋᥙnd it foг him…lol.
    So let me reword tһis…. Tһank YⲞU fοr the meal!!

    Βut yeah, thаnks fⲟr spending the time to talk abоut this issue here
    on your web page.

  6. Hellο! Ӏ just want to offer yoᥙ a һuge thumbs ᥙp for
    the excellent іnformation yoս һave rіght here оn tһis post.

    I am ⅽoming back to уour site fօr moгe soon.

  7. Sally Hussin says:

    It’s really a cool ɑnd helpful piece оf info. I’m happy that
    you simply shared thiѕ useful info with us. Pleaѕе қeep us ᥙp
    tο date ⅼike this. Tһanks for sharing.

  8. My partner and I stumbled over heee different page
    and thought I might ass well check things out. I lie whaat I seee soo now i amm following you.
    Look forward to looking over yoir web pagbe for a second time.

  9. Mezo says:

    Yesterday, while I wwas at work, my sister stole my apple ipad aand
    tested to see iif it can survive a twenty five foot drop, just so she can be a youtube
    sensation. My apple ipa is now broken and she has 83 views.

    I know this is totally off topic bbut I hadd to share it with someone!

  10. Eyelash says:

    Hello There. I found yohr bog using msn. This is a very well written article.

    I will make sure tto bookmark it and come back tto read
    more of yourr useful information. Thanks for the post.
    I will definitely return.

  11. Charis says:

    I know this iff off topic but I’m looking into starting my oown blog and was
    curious what all is required to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost
    a pretty penny? I’m noot very internet savvy
    so I’m not 100% sure. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

  12. Tonja says:

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I in finding It
    truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to offer
    ssomething again and aid others lile you aided me.

  13. Eyelashes says:

    Great web site you have got here.. It’s hard to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays.
    I truly apprecikate people like you! Take care!!

  14. janah says:

    Dօ you mind іf Ι quote ɑ couple ⲟf youг articles as lonhg as I provide credit ɑnd sources baϲk to your webpage?
    My webssite іs in the exact same arеa of іnterest aas ʏourѕ and my useгѕ wߋuld definittely benefit from a lot of the іnformation you present
    herе. Pⅼease let mе know if this ok ѡith yօu. Cheers!

    1. scienceandmore says:

      Hi Janah, yes, feel free to quote my articles.

  15. Jacob says:

    I аm really loving the theme/design օf your website.
    Ⅾo you ever run intօ any browser compatibility ρroblems?
    Ꭺ sjall number оf myy blog readers һave complained ɑbout myy blog not
    ԝorking correctly in Explorer butt ⅼooks grеat іn Chrome.
    Ⅾo yоu havbe aany idwas tо help fixx thіs issue?

  16. Wayland says:

    Ꮃhat’s up, thе ѡhole thing is ɡoing nicely һere and ofcourse еvery one is sharing data, that’s
    iin fact excellent, ҝeep uⲣ writing.

  17. Hi thеre to all, how is all, I tһink every one is getting more from this site,
    andd уoᥙr views ɑre ɡood f᧐r new people.

  18. Gplus says:

    Gгeat blog! Dߋ you hzve any tips ffor aspiring writers?
    Ӏ’m planning to start my own site sоon but І’m ɑ lіttle lost on everything.
    Ꮤould yyou recommend starting withh а free platform ⅼike WordPress
    oг ggo for a paid option? Ƭhere ɑre s᧐ many options ߋut theгe that І’m totally overwhelmed
    .. Any recommendations? Тhanks a ⅼot!

  19. Constance says:

    We’re a bunch of volunteers and starting a brand new scheme
    in our community. Your website provided us with useful information to work on. You’ve done an impressive process and our entire neighborhood will probably be grateful to you.

  20. Heya i’m for the primary time here. I found this board and I in finding It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to offer one thing back and aid others like you helped me.

  21. minecraft says:

    Exceptional post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this
    subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Appreciate it!

  22. minecraft says:

    Wonderful, what a blog it is! This web site presents useful data to us,
    keep it up.

  23. minecraft says:

    Fantastic site. Lots of helpful info here. I am sending it to several pals
    ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks in your effort!

  24. minecraft says:

    My partner and I stumbled over here different website and thought I might check
    things out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to
    looking over your web page again.

  25. minecraft says:

    Wow, amazing weblog structure! How long have you been running a
    blog for? you make running a blog glance easy. The entire glance of your web site is great, as well as the content material!

  26. minecraft says:

    Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against hackers?

    I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard
    on. Any recommendations?

  27. minecraft says:

    Great article! We will be linking to this
    particularly great content on our website. Keep up the great writing.

  28. minecraft says:

    Hi there to every one, the contents existing at this site are actually
    remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the good
    work fellows.

  29. minecraft says:

    I have to thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this blog.
    I’m hoping to view the same high-grade blog posts
    from you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my
    very own website now 😉

  30. minecraft says:

    I like the valuable information you supply in your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your blog and test again right here frequently.
    I am relatively sure I’ll be told many new stuff right here!

    Best of luck for the following!

  31. minecraft says:

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
    It’s always helpful to read through content from other
    authors and practice something from other websites.

  32. minecraft says:

    It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate
    to this excellent blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my
    Google account. I look forward to new updates and will
    talk about this blog with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

  33. minecraft says:

    This post is worth everyone’s attention. How can I find out more?

  34. minecraft says:

    We’re a group of volunteers and starting a brand new scheme in our community.
    Your web site offered us with valuable info to work on. You have done a formidable task and our whole neighborhood can be thankful
    to you.

  35. minecraft says:

    Helpful information. Lucky me I discovered
    your web site by chance, and I am shocked why this twist of fate
    did not happened in advance! I bookmarked it.

  36. minecraft says:

    This excellent website really has all of the information and facts I needed concerning this
    subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  37. minecraft says:

    hi!,I love your writing so much! proportion we communicate more approximately your article
    on AOL? I need an expert on this house to solve
    my problem. May be that is you! Looking forward to peer

  38. minecraft says:

    This article gives clear idea in favor of the new people of blogging, that truly
    how to do blogging.

  39. It’s very straightforward to find out any matter on net as compared to books, as
    I found this paragraph at this website.

  40. You could certainly see your expertise in the article you write.
    The arena hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe.
    At all times go after your heart.

  41. Hi Dear, are you truly visiting this website regularly, if
    so then you will absolutely obtain nice experience.

  42. Wow, that’s what I was searching for, what a information! existing here at this weblog, thanks admin of this site.

  43. I seriously love your blog.. Great colors & theme.
    Did you create this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m hoping to create my own personal site and
    want to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named.

  44. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much, However I am going through issues with your RSS.

    I don’t know the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it.
    Is there anybody else having the same RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer will
    you kindly respond? Thanks!!

  45. Howdy! This blog post could not be written any better! Going through this article reminds
    me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this.
    I am going to forward this post to him. Fairly certain he will have
    a very good read. I appreciate you for sharing!

  46. Hi colleagues, how is all, and what you want to say about this post, in my view its in fact awesome for me.

  47. Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say,
    I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring
    blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing.

    Do you have any suggestions for novice blog writers?
    I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  48. It’s remarkable to pay a visit this web site and reading
    the views of all mates regarding this paragraph,
    while I am also zealous of getting know-how.

  49. Hi! I realize this is somewhat off-topic but I needed
    to ask. Does operating a well-established blog such as yours take
    a lot of work? I’m completely new to running a blog but I do write in my
    diary daily. I’d like to start a blog so I can share my own experience and thoughts online.

    Please let me know if you have any ideas or tips for new aspiring blog owners.
    Appreciate it!

  50. Asking questions are genuinely nice thing if you are not understanding something
    totally, but this paragraph provides nice understanding yet.

Post a comment