Relevance of the research Project
Relevance of the research Project
Poultry meat is one of the most consumed animal food products in the world and the world poultry population is predicted to rise by over 90% between 2005 and 2050 . As far as poultry rearing is concerned, feed production gives the most important contribution to all different environmental categories (global warming, acidification, eutrophication, terrestrial ecotoxicity, non-renewable fossil energy). Purchased protein feeds, mainly represented by soybean meal (SBM) which is the most common protein source in poultry diets, give the most relevant contribution to the environmental impact . New environmentally friendly sources of protein, locally produced without use of large cropping areas, are required to substitute SBM in poultry diets, in order to reduce the ecological footprint of poultry production. In this framework, insects represent one of the most promising alternative source of nutrients. Recent research has shown great potential environmental benefits of rearing insects for poultry feed, because insects are efficient bioconverters that can turn low value waste into high value edible food products, recycling the nutrients from organic residue and in turn feeding animals, closing the nutrient loop and ensuring nothing is wasted (Zero Waste concept).
Among the insect species used for the waste bioconversion process, the most studied is the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens – HI). HI larvae are rich in protein, energy, vitamins and minerals . The Zero Waste concept is further strengthened by the possible agronomic valorisation of the left-over material (frass) of the insect rearing process that can be used as organic matter and nutrient-rich soil amendments [4-5]. In addition to its interesting nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium contents, the frass contains certain beneficial bacteria that act as plant growth microorganisms, thereby improving plants’ health and facilitating their absorption of nutrients . Today, several EU countries strictly regulate the conditions for commercializing insect frass on their national market. However, its legal status remains uncertain in many other EU Members States. In the European Community, the use of insect processed proteins in poultry feeds is under discussion but still not permitted, while no restriction is applied as far as live larvae are concerned. Live larvae fed to poultry provide good nutrients and bioactive compounds with positive effects on health, but also enable birds to express their normal behaviour (i.e., scratching activity), with expected positive impacts on animal welfare and product quality. Nevertheless, robust scientific data on these aspects are still missing and researches are needed.
On the light of the above considerations, the project intends to fill the gap of knowledge directly involving the societal actors and trying to align both the project processes and outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of organic poultry meat consumers and European citizens sensible to the environmental impact of livestock production.
The project objectives are:
- to further optimize HI diet, based on their nutritional requirements and to define targeted feed formulae by using mixtures of available organic waste ingredients;
- to valorize the agronomic potential of the frass derived from HI larvae rearing;
- to identify balanced inclusion levels of live HI larvae (in substitution of a conventional protein source, i.e. SBM) into diets tailored to slowgrowing chickens, based on the growth and slaughtering performances;
- to assess the bird welfare status, evaluating the behavior by means of video recording camera and analyzing stress biomarkers in feces;
- to assess the role of HI larvae bioactive compounds (i.e. chitin) on chicken gut health-related parameters by means of innovative metagenomics methodologies;
- to evaluate the poultry meat quality by means of physical-chemical, proteomic and in vitro digestibility analyses;
- to assess the consumer expectations and preferences associated to poultry meat sensory panel evaluation;
- to enhance public knowledge, awareness, sensitiveness and active participation towards environmental and animal welfare issues, in compliance with the EU legislation on Circular Economy and animal wellbeing;
- to contribute to policy making via research on the ongoing debate on frass and ‘bio-insects’.
The SUSFOOD2 and CORE ORGANIC Call is related to the sustainability of food systems that are defined as “A food system that supports food security, makes optimal use of natural and human resources, and respects biodiversity and ecosystems for present and future generations, and which is culturally acceptable and accessible, environmentally sound and economically fair and viable, and provides the consumer with nutritionally adequate, safe, healthy and affordable food”. Considering this definition, our proposal excellently fits with the objectives and strategies indicated in the Call since, adopting a multidisciplinary approach, Poultrynsect intends to focus on the valorization of organic wastes (efficient use of natural resources and processes, improved nutrient recycling techniques) and production of high value products (provides the consumer with nutritionally adequate, safe, healthy and affordable food) using insect larvae and exalting the concept of the circular economy (optimal use of natural and human resources).
 Alexandratos, N., & Bruinsma, J. (2012). World agriculture towards 2030/2050: the 2012 revision. ESA Working Paper No. 12-03 June 2012.
 Cesari, V., Zucali, M., Sandrucci, A., Tamburini, A., Bava, L., & Toschi, I. (2017). Environmental impact assessment of an Italian vertically integrated broiler system through a Life Cycle approach. Journal of cleaner production, 143, 904-911.
 Spranghers, T., Ottoboni, M., Klootwijk, C., Ovyn, A., Deboosere, S., De Meulenaer, B.,& De Smet, S. (2017). Nutritional composition of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) prepupae reared on different organic waste substrates. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 97(8), 2594-2600.
 Suantika, G., Putra, R. E., Hutami, R., & Rosmiati, M. (2017, November). Application of compost produced by bioconversion of coffee husk by black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia Illucens) as solid fertilizer to lettuce (Lactuca Sativa Var. Crispa). In Proceedings of the International Conference on Green Technology (Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 20-26).
 Fowles, T., & Nansen, C. (2020). Insect-Based Bioconversion: Value from Food Waste. In: E. Närvänen et al. (eds.), Food Waste Management. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-20561-4_12
 Poveda, J., Jiménez-Gómez, A., Saati-Santamaría, Z., Usategui-Martín, R., Rivas, R., & García-Fraile, P. (2019). Mealworm frass as a potential biofertilizer and abiotic stress tolerance-inductor in plants. Applied Soil Ecology, 142, 110-122.