Photo credit: Antonella Dalle Zotte

The animal article of the month for December is Black soldier fly as dietary protein source for broiler quails: apparent digestibility, excreta microbial load, feed choice, performance, carcass and meat traits‘. Authors: M. Cullere, G. Tasoniero, V. Giaccone, R. Miotti-Scapin, E. Claeys, S. De Smet, A. Dalle Zotte

Background
The global population is expected to reach the nine billion mark by 2050. Consequently, the demand for meat is expected to increase by 58%, accompanied by a 30% price increase compared to that of 2010. To fulfill this demand, an augmented livestock and conventional feedstuffs production will be necessary, thus increasing the pressure on the already over exploited natural resources. Therefore, the search for a sustainable feedstuffs for livestock is certainly an imperative topic.

Insects could represent a possible alternative to the conventional protein feed sources as they are cold blooded, thus having a high feed conversion efficiency, and they can be fed by-products whose elimination has an economic and environmental cost. Futhermore, insects are a typical ingredient in the natural diet of wild birds and free-range poultry, therefore theoretically being suitable also for intensive poultry farming. The black soldier fly is a Diptera of the Stratiomyidae family which originates from the New World but which now has a cosmopolitan distribution. Larvae can exploit a wide range of decomposing organic materials (fruits, vegetables, kitchen wastes, rendered fish and poultry, pigs and cattle manure), thus being of potential interest in transforming waste into valuable biomass. There is however a lack of a clear legislation and standards for the use of insects as feed in Western Countries, which hampers the industrial development of this emerging sector. For this reason, in 2014 the FAO highlighted “the need of further research efforts to provide and expand with validated data the available scientific evidence and benefits of using insects in the food and feed chains”.

With this purpose, in our research we tested a partial substitution of soya bean meal (up to 24.8%) and soya bean oil (up to 100%) with black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae meal in the diet of growing broiler quails reared under intensive conditions. Nutrient digestibility, feed choice, microbiological composition of excreta, growth performance, mortality, carcass and meat quality traits were considered.

Key findings
Live performance and carcass traits of growing quails fed the two diets of increasing levels of Hermetia illucens were comparable to that of quails fed conventional soya bean meal and oil-based diets and consistent to reference values recorded by typical commercial farming practices of this species. Also, breast meat quality did not seem to be substantially affected by dietary treatments. Quails displayed an optimal health status which was reflected by the microbial composition of their excreta. Energy and apparent nutrient digestibility was not impaired by the inclusion of Hermetia illucens. Finally, when quails had the possibility to select between the control diet and that with the highest inclusion level of Hermetia illucens, they seemed to prefer the latter.

Future perspectives
The black soldier fly can certainly be considered a possible solution to help face the challenging future of the feed sector. However, further research efforts are necessary to carefully investigate the impact of this alternative nutrient source on meat sensory perception and dietetic property which are key aspects for both consumers acceptance as well as for future marketing purposes.

This article is freely available for one month:
Black soldier fly as dietary protein source for broiler quails: apparent digestibility, excreta microbial load, feed choice, performance, carcass and meat traits

Authors: M. Cullere, G. Tasoniero, V. Giaccone, R. Miotti-Scapin, E. Claeys, S. De Smet, A. Dalle Zotte

The animal Article of the Month is selected by the Editor-in-Chief and is freely available for one month. View the recent selections

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