Common practice in many countries of Asia, Africa and Central America is the production and consumption of edible -Insects have been conquering Europe and western countries in general for several years. And that under the impetus of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
This UN organization promotes the use of insects in human and animal nutrition as an alternative to meat. The latter is too energetic.
And with the recent relaxation of European legislation, we can expect a relatively rapid development of entomoculture , i.e. the breeding of insects for human and animal consumption.
What are the currently most important techniques of entomoculture ? What are the challenges of this sector and what are the regulations in France? Here are some answers.
Edible insects: entomoculture techniques
Hand harvesting in nature , in the forest, is the traditional way of catching insects (termites, ants, larvae, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles) to eat them.
Although this method is still the most widely practiced in the world today, the concept of raising insects for human consumption is relatively new. The breeding of edible insects is also the subject of experimentation and practice worldwide.
Some of the main semi-livestock and rearing systems for edible insects are those listed below.
Improved natural production
Strictly speaking, it is not a question of breeding, because the insects remain in their natural habitat . However, thanks to some work, the habitat of the latter is being modified and improved for food purposes . The aim of this technique is to modify the behavior of the insect and thus promote its development in quantity and quality.
Insects derived from improved natural production are not kept in captivity or isolated from their wild counterparts.
This type of production can be found in the Amazon, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Mexico and sub-Saharan Africa, among others.
family mini breed
Housekeeping of edible insects can allow a family to:
- Improve your own diet.
- Earn income by selling their surplus production.
We speak of mini-breeding because this type of activity involves small animals (small mammals, amphibians, reptiles or invertebrates, including insects) weighing less than 20 kg, bred for their potential nutritional or economic benefits or offer to the household or Family business. These little beasts are therefore to be distinguished from pets as they are raised for domestic use or for profit. They can also be used to feed pets.
Mini-breeding of edible insects requires little technical and financial effort . In addition, unlike animal husbandry, insect farming, whether large or small, requires very small areas .
If the production of insects is at least 1 ton per day in fresh weight, the production is said to be industrial.
This was agreed at the „International Expert Consultation on Assessment the Potential of Insects as Food and Animal Feed to Contribute to Food Security“ held at the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) Headquarters in Rome, Italy, from 23 – 25 January 2012.
The industrial production of insects for human and animal consumption is relatively new.
However, such an enterprise requires huge investments to be successful, as each insect species farmed requires personalized treatment.
These must-have investments include:
- The research on the biology of each cultivated insect.
- The breeding conditions (controlled air conditioning, optimized lighting, etc.).
- The formulation (for each insect) of artificial foods modified to increase their nutritional value
- The development of automated processes .
- The supply of quality food .
It should be noted that insects, once intended for human consumption, cannot contain elements harmful to humans. They must therefore be organic.
Factory Bred Insects: Required Traits
According to the FAO, in order to be mass-produced, each insect must possess certain characteristics:
- A good reproductive capacity and rapid growth in terms of weight and amount per day.
- A high spawn rate .
- A short development cycle.
- A high survival rate of young animals.
- A high feed conversion rate (amount of feed needed to gain 1 kg of weight).
- The ability to live in high density conditions.
- A high disease resistance.
Small animals that meet these conditions include the black soldier fly (food for animals) and mealworms (food for humans and animals).
Finally, it should be noted that due to the vulnerabilities of mass production systems, the exclusive use of a single species of insect is not recommended.
The challenges of entomoculture
Intensive rearing of conventional livestock (or meat animals) may no longer be ecologically sustainable in the coming decades. However, due to a rapidly growing world population (9 billion people in 2050), the search for new protein sources has become extremely urgent.
400,000 tons of snacks swarm under our feet! All of these are sources of essential nutrients for humans and animals intended for human consumption.
Entomoculture for animal feed
Using insects as animal feed has a number of advantages :
- The conversion of food into body mass is particularly strong in these small invertebrates.
- Little food is needed for them to grow.
- They can be reared on organic waste .
Unfortunately, industrial production plants for edible insects are still too expensive today due to the high labor and construction costs for hatcheries.
For example, if one uses mealworms to feed chickens, the cost of producing this feed would be 5 times the price of traditional chicken feed.
Entomoculture for human consumption
According to the FAO, “ quality animal husbandry is essential to the widespread use of insects for human food.“
Small animals intended for human consumption must be fed a diet (plants, grains, etc.) that is free of pesticides and antibiotics. The feeding of organic waste is also prohibited. This is intended to minimize the risk of illness among consumers.
To ensure the safety of insects for human consumption, production systems in Europe are subject to strict health standards , known as the „sanitary package“.
In short, successful breeding of insects for human consumption requires a very good knowledge of biology, optimal breeding conditions, and high-quality insect food.
Entomiculture and its many benefits
This course has many advantages:
- Diet Depending on the species, insects can be very good sources of protein , minerals and vitamins.
- Economic : Harvesting and raising insects can create jobs and generate income for families. Used as an alternative to meat as a source of protein, insects also help reduce food waste as they eat very little. Their feed conversion rate is high compared to small and large livestock (2 kg of feed yields 1 kg of insects, while 8 kg of feed is required). to produce 1 kg of meat).
- Environment : Insects require little space, little water and little food to grow. And their droppings can be used for organic farming. Compared to other sectors, entomoculture generates less greenhouse gases or other pollutants and less waste.
However, the success of the entomoculture sector will depend on its ability to implement a reliable production chain and produce food of consistent quality with high nutritional value for animals and humans.
Regulation on the Breeding of Edible Insects
In France there are no specific regulations for the breeding of edible insects.
However , the keeping or acquisition of animals of non-native species (also called captive wild animals</ a>) is regulated by the Environmental Code (Articles L. 413-1 to L. 413-5) and its implementing texts.
These regulations distinguish between two types of wildlife keepers :
- hobby farms.
- breeding farms.
This category of breeding affects amateur breeders who keep a limited number of insect species in captivity.
This type of breeding must:
- Refer to non-native, unprotected, non-noxious, non-dangerous insects.
- be nonprofit.
- For personal use and to be carried out in small numbers.
- Not for public display.
If these conditions are met, then breeding insects does not require a special administrative procedure .
The commercial breeding of insects is regulated by the decree of August 10, 2004, which establishes the general operating rules for establishments breeding animals of alien species.
This decree specifically states that the professional grower must obtain two additional administrative authorizations provided for in Articles L. 413-2 and L. 413-3 of the Environment Code:
- A skill certificate that certifies the farm’s competency in handling its animals.
- An opening permit that focuses on the conformity of the installations.
If the company keeps protected species or species that are dangerous to humans, a holding permit must also be available.
All these permits are issued by the prefect.
On January 1, 2018, new European legislation on novel foods, also known as “ novel foods“ , came into force. Since insects are defined as “novel food”, new perspectives open up for operators in the European Union member countries that want to start producing and marketing insect-based products for human consumption.
Note that since July 1, 2017, according to Regulation (EU) 2017/893 of May 24, 2017, the European Union authorizes the use of proteins from 7 species of insects (2 species of soldier flies , 2 other mealworms and 3 crickets) for Feeding of fish from fish farming and aquaculture.
However, the substrates on which these insects are raised must not contain manure (fertilizer made from a liquid mixture of urine and excrement from farm animals) or kitchen waste.
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