Sustainability is a word and concept bandied about with little concern about its actual meaning. My education in agriculture and livestock production taught me that sustainable food production considered a variety of factors – environmental and human impacts, whether that’s related to conservation or maintaining the livelihood of a nation’s farmers whilst feeding the world. In my industry, producing more with fewer resources and a smaller impact on the environment, while maintaining primary producers’ profitability, is the goal we strive to crush everyday.
For this reason, I value all kinds of innovation in the food industry. I support biotechnological advances in my field, which means that I’m “pro-GMO,” naturally. I strongly support science-based production practices, even with respect to animal welfare, which means that I oppose cage-free egg production, regardless of humans’ tendency to anthropomorphize livestock and its influence on food policy.
I was excited to read about a new product in the animal feed industry, which contributes to conservation efforts and reducing our carbon footprint, and provides an exceptional protein source for commercial broilers – insects.
A company, with breeding and production facilities in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, has devised a way to breed black spot fly larvae and produce a suitable protein source for commercial broilers, making this product a potential replacement for soybean meal as the primary protein source in poultry production.
Feeding insects to poultry isn’t gross – chickens and other avian species already feast on many-legged critters. Poultry species like to forage, and that includes eating insects that cross their paths.
Other protein sources in poultry production include soybean meal and fish meal, both coming with a substantial environmental impact. Soy requires many acres to grow, and land used to produce animal feed would be better suited to produce grains for human consumption, especially with a global population that’s expected to balloon to 9 billion people within several decades. Fish meal requires the ongoing disturbance of aquatic ecosystems, and when farmed, is an intensive venture.
To bolster the positive environmental impact of feeding insects to poultry, consider that the feed source for fly larvae is human garbage. It’s a win-win. Our waste is recycled as feed for insects, which are fed to chickens, which are raised and processed for our consumption, and the waste produced is fed to subsequent generations of fly larvae.
For anyone following the development of novel food products in the agriculture industry, or for those concerned about sustainability in our food systems, this is worth celebrating. One should commend the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for approving this novel food product.