ADAS project completes ‘roadmap’ to increase insect protein as feed in UK

July 26, 2021

ADAS, an RSK group company, has successfully conducted innovative research into the potential use of insect protein as livestock feed. Carried out on behalf of WWF-UK and Tesco, the research outlines the opportunities presented by insects as “alternative novel proteins” and how production can be scaled up for use in the pig, poultry and salmon sectors.

Environmental impact of animal feeds

The work was carried out to further our understanding of the applications of alternative protein sources for animals as a means of mitigating the damaging environmental impacts of traditional feeds. Currently, animal feed uses roughly 75% of all soy produced. The cultivation of soy has resulted in rapid deforestation and habitat loss in the regions where it is grown. Owing to soy’s contribution to climate change, rapid deforestation and habitat loss, alternative protein sources are needed to improve the sustainability of UK meat and fish production. Insects, which can be farmed with less of an ecological impact, offer the potential to reduce the environmental footprint of livestock farming. This lessened impact is due to the fact that significantly less land is needed to produce the same amount of protein as soy provides.

The report emphasises the “huge potential for insect farming to help tackle the climate and nature crisis”. Not only do insects offer the potential to reduce deforestation and habitat conversion, but insects are also “biological waste processors”. Insect cultivation will help recycle and decompose organic material, such as food waste and other unused by-products. Increasing the production and use of insects as feed will help to create a circular economy and reduce the environmental footprint of our diets.

Growth of insects as feed

ADAS researchers estimate an insect meal demand of 540,000 tonnes a year by 2050. This has the potential to replace 524,000 tonnes of soy and 16,000 tonnes of fishmeal. Such a shift would represent a reduction in the UK’s soy footprint by a fifth, “or Tesco UK’s entire 2018 soy footprint”.

The report emphasises the need for legislative changes to enable insect meal to become a widely used feed alternative. Currently, insect meal is only permitted for aquaculture stock and not for any livestock destined for human consumption. A change in regulation would offer the opportunity for insect meal to form a significant part of the feed for the UK’s pig, poultry and salmon sectors.

You can read the report, published by WWF-UK, in full online. For more information about the project and its findings, please contact Charles Ffoulkes, project team leader and Associate Director for ADAS Climate and Sustainability. RSK Communication Services worked with ADAS to edit, illustrate and lay out the report.