Regulatory developments around insect feed protein in the US

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ maystra
© GettyImages/ maystra
Ohio based insect protein company, EnviroFlight, announced on Tuesday [September 11] that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended the amendment of the ingredient definition for dried black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) so that it can be used in poultry diets.

The FDA has proposed that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) allow for use of whole dried insects and protein-meal made from the insect larvae in poultry feeds, said EnviroFlight, which is a joint venture Intrexon Corporation and Darling Ingredients.

The FDA and AAFCO work together in the area of feed regulation, particularly in the setting of definitions to describe new feed ingredients.

The change in definition provides a new protein source to the poultry industry, said Carrie Kuball, VP of sales and marketing with EnviroFlight.

She told FeedNavigator. “Chickens are adapted to eat insects, therefore incorporating them into their nutrition program will provide a natural feed component.  This is a tremendous opportunity for commercial poultry operations to include this ingredient in their feeding program.”

Regulatory change 

The expansion in ingredient definition applies to use for layer and broiler chickens, along with other species considered poultry, she said.

The amended definition allows for the use of whole, dried BSFL and for a defatted and ground version of the protein ingredient, said Kuball.

The de-fatted version of the insect-based product has a higher protein concentration, she said, and may be more conducive to use in manufactured pellets or crumbles.

Prior to the change in ingredient definition, EnviroFlight has explored the impact of the use of its insect ingredients with broiler chickens during a feeding study at North Carolina State University. It also conducted trials with laying hens at Pennsylvania State University.

The trials found that the feed ingredients provided significant amounts of protein, essential amino acids, fatty acids, energy and minerals and were able to support body weight, along with egg production and quality, the company said.

“BSFL was already a defined ingredient with AAFCO, but it was only defined to be used in salmonid diets – now the FDA is also recommending [inclusion] in poultry [diets],” ​said Kuball.

In Canada, whole dried insect larvae can be used in feed for salmonids, tilapia, broiler chickens and other types of poultry.

EnviroFlight and other companies are continuing efforts to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the ingredient in other species, said Kuball. “This is an exciting emerging market for BSFL in the US and globally and we look forward to participating in it,”​ she added.

Expanding production

In addition to efforts expanding the use of BSFL in farmed animal sectors, EnviroFlight has been in the process of constructing a commercial production facility in Maysville, Kentucky, said Kuball. The exact date of opening has not been set, but it is anticipated to be in the fourth quarter of 2018.

“It’s on schedule which is great,” ​she said. “The facility is built to be scalable meaning we can increase production based on industry needs and industry approvals.”

The company’s pilot plant in Yellow Springs, Ohio opened in 2009.

Initially, the Kentucky facility will be able to generate about 3,200 metric tons of product annually, said Kuball.

Sustainability profile  

From an environmental standpoint, production of insects provides a sustainable protein source, says EnviroFlight. They also receive a feed formulated and made from pre-consumer byproducts or waste ingredients that might be sent to landfill. 

About 1m to 2m pounds of insect protein can be generated per acre, the company reported. This compares to about 356 pounds of soy protein and 297 pounds of poultry-based proteins, said the company.

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