September 21, 2020

Interpretive Summary: Digestibility of black soldier fly larvae meal fed to growing pigs

Interpretive Summary: Digestibility of black soldier fly larvae meal (Hermetia illucens) fed to growing pigs

By: Anne Kamiya, MS

Soybeans are usually the main ingredient in livestock feed as it is efficiently processed into high-protein soybean meal (SBM). However, alternative sources of high-protein feed ingredients should be explored due to recent concerns about environmental sustainability. One possible high-protein alternative to soy is insects. In this recent Translational Animal Science study, researchers looked at the potential of black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens) to replace SBM as a high-protein feed ingredient. Their goal was to determine the standardized ileal digestibility (SID) of amino acids (AA) of black soldier fly larvae meal (BSFLM) fed to growing pigs.

Pigs were fed a cornstarch-based diet with full fat (FF) or defatted (DF) BSFLM as the only protein source. Both FF and DF BSFLM had high SID of AA, suggesting potential as a high-protein feed ingredient. However, digestible Lysine in BSFLM was up to 40% less than the digestible Lysine in SBM. The authors suggest that processing method and the fibrous chitin in the insects’ exoskeletons may have impacted these parameters, since processing method has not yet been standardized for BSFLM.

Overall, the results of this study suggest that BSFLM has potential as a high-protein alternative to SBM. Whether replacing SBM entirely or partially with BSFLM can become viable economically is yet unclear. Further studies are needed to determine whether certain processing methods might increase BSFLM digestibility and if processing can be both standardized and made affordable. Considering its potential as a high-protein feed ingredient, more studies looking at insect-based protein (such as BSFLM) in livestock feed is warranted.

The original article, Standardized ileal digestible amino acids and net energy contents in full fat and defatted black soldier fly larvae meals (Hermetia illucens) fed to growing pigs, is viewable in the July 2020 issue of Translational Animal Science.