Its director, Trudy van Megen, told us the European feed sector has to do “more with less” and must reduce its dependence on imported grains such as soy for feed production to boost its sustainability profile.
Raw materials such as algae and insect protein are highly attractive as soy replacements in feed but would be more cost effective to use in their minimally processed, wet form, she said.
“However, new technology is required for the use of such wet ingredients in a standard feed mill,” van Megen told us.
In this context, the research center carried out projects with some of its 75 feed industry partners in 2015 to develop and test equipment that will allow those materials to be processed in a conventional feed facility.
They mixed wet resources in with dry compound feed. Meal worm, algae, tomatoes and apple pulp were blended and added to the conditioner to enable efficient use without supplementary drying costs, said van Megen.
“We undertook trials whereby we mixed up to 30% of these wet materials with wheat or other grains, followed by extrusion,” she explained.
As part of the research, a project run by partner companies, CJ Wildbirds Ltd/Vivara, Vitelia, Coppens Diervoeding, Kreca, Louis Bolk Instituut, M Ruig en Zonen, New Generation Nutrition and Venik, used feed containing fresh mealworms produced by the Feed Design Lab in layer and broiler feeding trials, said the director.
The aim of that research was to evaluate the impact of the novel feed on feed conversion ratio and the health and welfare of the birds in question, said van Megen.
She said the team found there was no significant difference between the control group and the group fed the mealworm based diet in terms of weight, growth, general appearance, plumage, lameness and litter quality.
In another study, the Feed Design Lab, together with six partner companies, ran a preliminary feeding trial replacing fishmeal in poultry diets with algae paste. "The results were sufficiently promising to carry out a more extensive trial," said van Megan.
For full replacement of soybean meal in fattening pig and broiler diets in the Netherlands, large quantities, around 685 kiloton annually, of insects would be required. Replacing 5% of soy in compound feed for Dutch broilers would mean that still 72 kiloton of insects a year is needed, according to data from Wageningen University’s Livestock Research’s 2012 publication, Insects as a sustainable feed ingredient in pig and poultry diets - a feasibility study.
Insects identified as most promising for industrial production in the western world are the Black soldier fly (BSF) (Hermetica illucens), Common housefly (Musca domestica), and Yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor), according to that Dutch University report.
In the EU, insect protein cannot currently be used in feed for pigs and poultry. The Commission’s reaction to the recent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) risk assessment of insect protein in food and feed is eagerly awaited.
EFSA’s findings, published last October, indicated when currently allowed feed materials are used to feed insects, the possible occurrence of any microbiological hazards are expected to be comparable to other sources of protein of animal origin and should not pose any additional risk compared to other feed.
EU funded insect protein project, PROteINSECT, is hosting a conference in Brussels next week to publish the outcomes of its research. And Dr Wolfgang Trunk from the Commission's Food and Consumer Health Directorate, DG Sante, will be presenting on the status of the EU regulatory framework in relation to the use of insect protein in feed.