The market for poultry products (egg and meat) is growing worldwide
owing also to the absence of cultural or religious obstacles.
Dietary protein sources represent the primary production costs.
Soybean meal is the most used protein source in the diet formulations
for broilers and laying hens. However due to its ever-increasing
price, the sustainability of this production chain is becoming critical,
in particular in some developing countries. Therefore, alternative
feed protein sources, locally available and sustainable are required.
The use of insects as an alternative source of protein in animal feeding
is becoming globally more appealing, especially for its sustainability.
In addition, insects (adult, larval and pupal form) are consumed
naturally by wild birds and free-range poultry. The rural poultry
farming in the economy and food security of developing countries
has been momentous. Studies have shown the feasibility of using
insects as an alternative feed source or as complementary feed
source for poultry. Grasshoppers, darkling beetle, crickets, cockroaches,
termites, lice, stink bugs, cicadas, aphids, scale insects,
psyllids, beetles, caterpillars, flies, fleas, bees, wasps and ants have
all been used as complementary food sources for poultry. Soybean or
fish meal in broiler chicken or laying hen diets have been successfully
replaced at low inclusion levels by black soldier flies (Hermetia
illucens), housefly (Musca domestica), mealworms (Tenebrio molitor)
and silkworm (Bombix mori) pupae. Insect inclusion in poultry
diets ranged between 0.2 to 20 % without affecting growth performance
or, in some cases, by improving it. An obstacle to the use of
insect meals in poultry diets is the lack of information about nutrient
digestibility in commercial poultry farms. Recently, Schiavone et al.
(2015), have estimated the nutrient and apparent metabolizable
energy values for mealworms and black soldier flies pupae used in
chickens feeding. The use of insects as sustainable protein-rich feed
ingredient in poultry diets is technically feasible. Insects can be
reared on low-grade bio-waste substrates transforming them into
high-quality proteins. Furthermore, invertebrates are a raw material
included in the Feed Register Material of the EU. Although they are
currently authorized only for pet feeding, insect-derived feed could
represent in the near future a suitable ingredient for poultry, too.