Everyone in the BSF world is aware of its larvae being able to digest practically anything organic. Recognition of such ability has led to diverse studies to determine what exactly this insect can, and cannot, digest. Through a multitude of studies, the conclusion is there is little they cannot digest. In fact, an appealing aspect of this insect is its ability to digest animal waste.
Given the BSF larva can take waste products, such as dairy, swine, or poultry manure (to name a few) and convert it to protein with the remaining waste a potential fertilizer, its value to sustainable agriculture globally is tremendous.
While these findings indicate great potential, I encourage everyone to "pump the brakes" and take pause with regards to implementing this process specifically for recycling animal wastes.
Why you ask? Well, first, we have to recognize what regional regulations permit to be fed to BSF if they are to be used as animal feed. But, the second reason is far more important as it leads to the first being accomplished (i.e., government approval).
At this time, we do not know much about the quality assurance aspects of this process (i.e., feeding animal waste to BSF). This point is made very clear in the following study (please take the time to read this paper- if available to you) as it has some very important findings for everyone to consider.
Müller, A., S. Wiedmer, and M. Kurth. 2019. Risk evaluation of passive transmission of animal parasites by feeding of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae and prepupae. Journal of Food Protection 82: 948-954.
Here are the major points from the publication:
1. Fecal parasites examined in the study survived the BSF process.
2. The parasites were able to survive digestion by BSF.
3. The parasites remained attached to the external surfaces of the BSF larvae.
4. Washing the larvae is not enough to remove all parasites from the external surface of BSF larvae.
What needs to be done (just a couple consideration):
1. Determine how processing the resulting larvae (e.g., boiling, freezing, drying) impacts parasite survival.
2. Continue to diversify the parasites examined.
3. Determine if pre-treatment of manure can assist with suppressing parasites.
4. Increase traceability throughout the world to ensure products produced are in fact safe.
Overall Thoughts: This study provides an extremely important contribution to the insects as food and feed sector. I applaud the authors on tackling such an important subject.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News....
1. National Geographic- They always put together great stories (and they include a nice video as well). While this one is not specifically insects as food and feed, I believe the topic of "sustainable agriculture" is something we all should keep in mind as related to what our industry does. I believe this point is why life cycle analysis studies play a crucial role in the insects as food and feed sector. We need to know the good as well as the bad in terms of what our industry does to the environment.
2. Insects are Packed with Antioxidants- A great overview of a study recently published indicating many insects that are used as food are high (5X than orange juice) in antioxidants, which is great for human health. There is a link to the actual publication as well. Too bad BSF weren't included in the study.
3. Black Soldier Fly as a Super Hero? Just in case you want to see an image of a BSF adult with a cape. A nice story highlighting a start-up in England and its focus on producing BSF.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Ready for Cooler Weather
Individuals with over 25 years research experience with the black soldier fly. We are passionate about the science behind the black soldier fly and its ability to convert waste to protein.
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