Poultrynsect is a research project developed by a consortium of researchers with expertise in agronomy, poultry nutrition, entomology, food and veterinary science belonging to research and academic institutions in four European countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy and Norway). The project aims to test the effect of live insect larvae feeding for slow-growing organic chickens to increase sustainability in meat production and improve animal welfare. Insect larvae will be bred on organic waste from the food industry and used as a feed ingredient and environmental enrichment in chicken production. Live insect larvae allow the species-typical behavior of chickens to chop feed and are a sustainable source of protein. The project will study the effect of live insects as part of the feed on chicken performance (e.g. rate of growth), animal health, animal welfare and meat quality. Consumers' expectations, preferences and eating habits for organic chicken will be mapped. LCA and cost-benefit analysis will be performed to define the economic and environmental effects of insect larvae as feed for poultry. So far, one of two feeding trials has been conducted in which hen and rooster chicks of the type Label Naked Neck Hybrid have been fed with control feed or control feed supplemented with 10% live black soldier fly larvae. The feeding trial was conducted at the University of Turin with 20-day-old chicks fed until they were 82 days old. Feeding with insect larvae had no effect on the growth curve of the chicks. In the initial growth period (20-35 days), feeding with insect larvae produced a decrease in feed turnover rate (amount of feed eaten divided by chicken weight gain) for both sexes and an increased weight gain per day for the rooster chicks. During the second growth period (35-82 days), feeding insects led to a higher feed turnover rate for hen chickens due to the lower feed intake of hen chickens, which thus ate relatively more insect larvae. Live larvae from black soldier fly thus had a positive effect on feed turnover rate and weight gain in the first growth period. Supplementation above 10% in the second growth period (hen chickens) had a negative effect. In Norway, we have investigated the effect of feeding with insect larvae on the meat quality of chicken fillets. In a screening of all 240 chicken fillets with an NIR scanner, no abnormalities (e.g wooden breast) were found. There were no significant differences in thaw loss or instrumental tenderness between the groups. We also found no differences in fat oxidation (TBARS) between the groups, but oxidation increased with heat treatment and during digestion. Heat treatment (in a water bath at 70.5°C for 30 min) led to a reduction in water content in the fillets compared to raw fillets, but no significant differences between sex or feed were found. Heat-treated fillets had a slightly higher in vitro protein digestibility (95.3%) than raw fillets (89.4%), but no differences in protein digestibility between the sex or feed groups were found. There were also no differences in amino acid composition of the fillets. A total of 495 proteins could be identified in chicken fillets by proteomics analysis. No effect of feed on protein expression was found in chicken fillets, while 45 proteins with different expression in hen and rooster chickens were identified. In summary, we can say that supplementing feed with 10% black soldier fly larvae has no negative effect on the physical or nutritional quality of chicken fillets. A new feeding trial with 2 different doses of live and dried larvae in rooster chicks has just been completed at the University of Turin and the fillets will again be examined for any changes in meat quality in Norway over the next few months.
Poultrynsect is a research project developed by a consortium of scientists with expertise in agronomy, poultry nutrition, entomology, food and veterinary sciences belonging to Research and Academic Institutions of four European countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy and Norway). The project aims to test the effects of an innovative feed ingredient (live insect larvae) for slow-growing organic chickens to allow sustainable meat production, to improve animal welfare and to potentially meet the consumer demand for healthier and more natural meat products with enhanced palatability. Insect larvae will be reared on organic food side streams, allowing the valorisation of secondary raw materials produced in excess from the food industries, and then used as feed ingredient and environmental enrichment in chickens. Point-source objects (pecking objects and litter/bedding containing insect larvae) will be used to allow species-typical behaviours and maintain animal health, thus resulting in an improvement of birds’ welfare and considerably improved quality of animal-derived food products. LCA and Cost-benefit analysis will be carried out to define the economic effect of such innovative productions and environmental enrichments in the industrial settings. Moreover, strategic researches focused on Sensory and Consumer Science to assess consumers’ food habits, expectations and preferences associated to sensory panel expert evaluation and in vitro digestibility of chicken meat for human consumption will be assessed by the project. In conclusion, live insect larvae effectiveness will be evaluated for their potential to improve chicken performance traits, animal welfare, gut microbiota and bird immunity system. This study will focus on productive performance, mucosal immunity, gut health and meat quality and will contribute to the development of cost-effective and
environmental-friendly diets for poultry, aiming at improving organic meat chicken production sustainability.