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Interpretive Summary: Amino acid digestibility and protein quality of mealworm-based ingredients using the precision-fed cecectomized rooster assay

By: Meredith A Smola, Patricia M Oba, Pamela L Utterback, Lorena Sánchez-Sánchez, Carl M Parsons, Kelly S Swanson

Mealworms may serve as an alternative protein source for pet foods because of their high protein content and low environmental footprint. The amino acid (AA) content and protein quality of mealworm-based ingredients may vary depending on their composition and processing, however, so testing is required. Our objective was to measure the AA composition, AA digestibility, and protein quality of the following ingredients using the precision-fed cecectomized rooster assay: 1) defatted yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) flour (TMd); 2) hydrolyzed T. molitor proteins (TMh); 3) whole lesser mealworm (Alphitobius diaperinus) flour (ADw); and 4) defatted lesser mealworm (A. diaperinus) flour (ADd). All ingredients had high AA digestibilities, with all indispensable AA digestibilities being >90% with the exception of histidine and valine. Digestible indispensable AA score (DIAAS)-like values were calculated to determine protein quality for adult dogs, adult cats, growing puppies, and growing kittens. In general, TMh had the highest and TMd had the lowest DIAAS-like values for most indispensable AA. Methionine (TMh; TMd; ADw) and phenylalanine (ADd) were the first-limiting AA. Our results demonstrate that mealworm-based ingredients are high-quality protein sources. Dog and cat research is necessary, but these data suggest that they are valuable sources of protein for pet foods.

Read the full article in the Journal of Animal Science.