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Insect as feed: An emergy assessment of insect meal as a sustainable protein source for the Brazilian poultry industry

Allegretti, Gabriela, Talamini, Edson, Schmidt, Verônica, Bogorni, Paulo Cesar, Ortega, Enrique
Journal of cleaner production 2018 v.171 pp. 403-412
Hermetia illucens, developing countries, edible insects, emergy, feed meals, income, insect larvae, meat consumption, models, poultry, poultry feeding, poultry industry, poultry meat, poultry production, protein sources, soybean meal, sustainable development, Brazil
Projections point to a global increase in meat consumption as a result of rising income and changes in food patterns, especially in developing countries. Poultry meat is an option for supplying this demand and Brazil is currently the main global exporter of this protein. Of the resources involved in this industrial process, soybean meal, which is a protein source for farmed animals, requires a large quantity of energy. In order to increase the sustainability of the poultry industry, it is necessary to find a more efficient alternative to this poultry feed. Through emergy assessment, this study proposes to evaluate the production and processing of Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) as an insect meal and to compare its use with soybean meal in a Brazilian poultry production system. The biological capacity of BSFL to convert the remaining energy from a previous process (grain residue) into a novel protein is demonstrated by emergetic indices, whose best values favor this new technology. Transformity (emergy per energy of the product) decreased 144.74% while renewability increased by 45.64%. The emergy yield ratio (EYR) reduced from 1.71 to 1.00 in insect meal production compared to soybean meal, the environmental loading ratio (ELR) improved from 1.99 to 1.04 and the emergy sustainable index (ESI) improved from 0.86 to 0.96. Gains were also observed in poultry production: the transformity of poultry meat decreased by 16.45% (156,104 sej/J), renewability increased by 25.03%, EYR increased from 1.33 to 1.41 and ELR reduced from 4.96 to 3.68, when insect meal was used in comparison to soybean meal. These results, based on an experimental model, imply that BSFL meal can improve sustainability in the Brazilian poultry production process. Challenges and possibilities regarding the use of insect meal by the Brazilian poultry industry are discussed.