Insects are an upcoming alternative and sustainable feed source for poultry and aquaculture pets. Insect protein is gaining recognition for its promising benefits in enhancing gut health and improving digestibility in livestock feed. Livestock, just like humans, require high-quality protein for optimal growth and development. Insects offer a rich source of protein, making them an excellent addition to animal feed.
Insects are highly nutritious and offer a wide range of essential nutrients that fish and chickens require for their growth and overall health. They are a rich source of protein, which is crucial for muscle development, tissue repair, and egg production. Insects also contain essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals necessary for optimal growth, immune function, and reproduction.
Natural part of diet
Insects form a natural part of the diet of many fish species, including both wild and domesticated varieties. Fish are naturally inclined to consume insects as they provide a valuable source of nutrition in their natural habitats. By including insects in fish feed, we are providing them with a diet that aligns with their natural feeding behaviour and nutritional needs.
Fish and chickens find insects highly palatable, which means they are naturally inclined to consume them. Insects have distinct flavours and aromas that attract these animals. This palatability factor makes insect-based feeds more appealing to fish and chickens, leading to increased feed intake and better utilisation of nutrients.
Coming to gut health, the structure and functionality of livestock animals and digestive systems, as well as the composition of their gastrointestinal microbiota, play an important role in the development of their gastrointestinal tract and gut morphology. A well-developed gastrointestinal tract will contain a suitably balanced amount of beneficial and harmful microbes; thus, this equilibrium will improve nutrition utilisation and drive immune system development.
Modulating gastrointestinal tract
The gut microbiota in an animal and gastrointestinal tract can be modulated by feeding prebiotic or probiotic compounds that have effects on the animal and humoral immunity, improving nutrient utilisation, and thus improving growth performance and their overall health.
The presence of dietary fibre, primarily in the form of chitin generated from the exoskeleton, distinguishes insects from other protein sources. In the gut of livestock animals, chitin likely converts into more soluble and fermentable forms, such as chitosan or chitooligosaccharides, which act as prebiotics. This results in a high digestibility. Livestock animals have digestive systems that are well-equipped to break down and utilise insect protein efficiently. This means that the nutrients present in insect protein can be readily absorbed by the animals, leading to improved nutrient utilisation and overall health.
Furthermore, insect protein boasts a well-balanced amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are essential for various biological processes in animals. Insects contain a diverse range of amino acids, ensuring that livestock receive a complete and balanced nutritional profile. This helps support optimal growth, reproduction, and overall well-being.
In addition to their nutritional attributes, insects contribute to promoting gut health in livestock. Insects contain compounds such as chitin and antimicrobial peptides that have been found to have positive effects on the gut microbiota. The gut microbiota plays a crucial role in nutrient absorption and overall immune function. By promoting a healthy microbial population in the gut, insects help optimise gut health in livestock, leading to enhanced nutrient absorption and a stronger immune system.
Cutting antibiotics needs
Certain insect species possess antimicrobial properties, either through compounds present in their bodies or the microorganisms they host, that can help combat harmful bacteria. By incorporating insects into animal feed, these natural antimicrobial properties can contribute to maintaining a healthy gut microbiota and reducing the need for antibiotics.
Beyond the benefits specific to livestock, the use of insect protein in animal feed also aligns with sustainability goals. Insect farming requires fewer resources compared to conventional livestock production. They have a smaller environmental footprint as they consume less water, land, and feed. This reduced resource consumption contributes to a more sustainable agricultural system, addressing concerns related to land use, water scarcity, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore, incorporating insects into animal feed supports the concept of a circular economy. Insects can be fed on organic waste materials such as food scraps or agricultural by-products. This not only reduces waste but also transforms it into a valuable protein source. By repurposing organic waste through insect farming, we can minimise environmental pollution and create a more closed-loop system.