In­sect farms gear up to feed soar­ing global pro­tein de­mand

The grow­ing in­sect farm­ing sec­tor has cap­tured at­ten­tion and in­vest­ments from some heavy­weights in the $400 bil­lion-a-year an­i­mal feed busi­ness. McDon­ald’s is study­ing us­ing in­sects for chicken feed

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Business -

LAY­ERS of squirm­ing black sol­dier fly lar­vae fill large alu­minum bins stacked 10-high in a ware­house out­side of Van­cou­ver. They are feed­ing on stale bread, rotting man­goes, over­ripe can­taloupe and squishy zuc­chini. But this is no garbage dump. It’s a farm. En­terra Feed, one of an emerg­ing crop of in­sect grow­ers, will process the bugs into pro­tein-rich food for fish, poul­try - even pets. Af­ter be­ing fat­tened up, the fly lar­vae will be roasted, dried and bagged or pressed to ex­tract oils, then milled into a brown pow­der that smells like roasted peanuts. The small but grow­ing in­sect farm­ing sec­tor has cap­tured at­ten­tion and in­vest­ments from some heavy­weights in the $400 bil­liona-year an­i­mal feed busi­ness, in­clud­ing U.S. agri­cul­tural pow­er­house Cargill Inc, feed sup­plier and farm prod­ucts and ser­vices com­pany Wil­bur-El­lis Co and Swiss-based Buh­ler Group, which makes crop pro­cess­ing ma­chin­ery. Fast food gi­ant McDon­ald’s is study­ing us­ing in­sects for chicken feed to re­duce reliance on soy pro­tein.

“This pi­o­neer­ing work is cur­rently at the proof-of-con­cept stage,” Ni­cola Robin­son, McDon­ald’s Corp sus­tain­able sup­ply chain man­ager, told Reuters. “We are en­cour­aged by ini­tial re­sults and are com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing to sup­port fur­ther re­search.”

The fact that such global food pro­duc­tion giants are turn­ing to in­sects il­lus­trates the lengths they will go to find al­ter­na­tive sources of pro­tein that are prof­itable and sus­tain­able as an­i­mal feed or ad­di­tives to hu­man food. Bugs are just one many al­ter­na­tives be­ing stud­ied or de­vel­oped by ma­jor agri­cul­tural firms. Oth­ers in­clude peas, canola, al­gae and bac­te­rial proteins. Global pop­u­la­tion growth and an ex­pand­ing mid­dle class have raised per capita meat con­sump­tion by 50 per­cent over the past four decades, fu­el­ing fears of a pro­tein pinch. Tra­di­tional sources of the key mi­cronu­tri­ent are grow­ing in­creas­ingly un­re­li­able amid a chang­ing global cli­mate and wor­ries about the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of row-crop farms and com­mer­cial fish­ing.

Benoit An­quetil - strat­egy and tech­nol­ogy lead for Cargill’s an­i­mal nutri- tion busi­ness - called de­vel­op­ing new sources of pro­tein a “long-term op­por­tu­nity.”

“Sus­tain­able pro­tein is a key chal­lenge, which is why Cargill is eval­u­at­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of in­sects as part of the so­lu­tion to nour­ish the world,” An­quetil said. Peo­ple tend to pivot from grainand plant-based di­ets to meat-based meals as they grow wealth­ier. The prob­lem is that as meat de­mand grows, feed pro­duc­tion needs to grow faster. It typ­i­cally takes about two pounds of feed to pro­duce a pound of chicken. For pork, it takes four pounds.

Ex­panded cul­ti­va­tion of soy­beans - the foun­da­tion of live­stock and poul­try ra­tions for decades - is not a long term so­lu­tion be­cause it con­trib­utes to de­for­esta­tion and overuse of harsh farm chem­i­cals. In ad­di­tion, sup­plies of fish­meal - an aqua­cul­ture feed made from wild-caught fish and fish by-prod­ucts - have fluc­tu­ated wildly with cli­mac­tic cy­cles, over­fish­ing and reg­u­la­tion to pre­vent it. Nu­tri­tion­ists and sci­en­tists have long touted in­sect con­sump­tion for hu­mans as a sus­tain­able and cheap source of pro­tein, but snack­ing on bugs is a stom­ach-churn­ing prospect for peo­ple in many coun­tries and cul­tures. In­tro­duc­ing in­sect pro­tein fur­ther down the food chain may be more palat­able. The bug busi­ness still has a few hur­dles ahead - like the yuck fac­tor, even when the in­sects are fed to an­i­mals. Reg­u­la­tors will also need to be con­vinced that ground-up bugs won’t in­tro­duce new tox­ins into the food sup­ply.

In­sect farm­ers grow black sol­dier fly lar­vae and meal­worms be­cause they are docile, easy to grow and high in pro­tein and di­gestible fat. Meal­worms can be grown with lit­tle wa­ter and stud­ies have shown they can “res­cue” nu­tri­ents by con­sum­ing grains not fit for live­stock pro­duc­tion with­out pass­ing on harm­ful tox­ins. Black sol­dier fly lar­vae also con­tain high lev­els of cal­cium and iron and can feed on a broad ar­ray of food waste. Black sol­dier fly lar­vae pro­duc­tion has gained a hand­ful of ap­provals in Europe, Canada and the United States, mostly for use in fish farms. Poul­try, swine and pet food reg­u­la­tions are not as far along.

Black sol­dier fly lar­vae in its fin­ished pack­ag­ing is pic­tured at the En­terra Feed Cor­po­ra­tion in Lan­g­ley, Bri­tish Columbia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Turkey

© PressReader. All rights reserved.