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Exploring the use of insects as an alternative protein for animal feed

Ashwin Prasad
Chief Product Officer

As the world population increases, so too will the global demand for meat and other animal proteins such as fish, eggs and dairy.
The growing volumes of animal feed required to support this are driving an expansion of soy cultivation – leading to the loss of forests and other native vegetation in the Amazon and Cerrado in South America. It is clear there is an urgent need to accelerate the sustainability of feed for farmed animals, and we’re hopeful alternative feeds like insect meal can be part of the solution.

Insects are a more natural protein source in the diets of chickens and fish than soy, and are already used, in small quantities, to feed farmed salmon and other fish. The added benefit is that insects can consume a proportion of our food waste. They could therefore be part of the solution to tackling the issues of both deforestation and food waste in supply chains.

Excited by their potential, Tesco has been supporting a number of start-ups in the UK over the last few years to explore how insect protein could be produced at scale and introduced into our supply chain.

One example is British start-up AgriGrub, which has been leading work in the UK to feeding waste fruit and vegetables to insects like Black Soldier Fly larvae, otherwise known as grubs.

Tesco’s partnership with AgriGrub started in 2016, working with our citrus fruit supplier AMT and soft fruit supplier DPS, to trial feeding the insects different types of food waste. Since then, AgriGrub has secured new funding to significantly scale up its operations. Today, the grubs on its site process 300kg of food waste per day. By the end of the year, they will process 10 tonnes of food waste per day, and they will process ten times that number by 2022.

In turn, AgriGrub is exploring how these grubs could be used as a replacement for meat-based protein in dog food and, crucially, as a replacement for soy in chicken and fish meal.

At Tesco, we’re inspired by sustainability solutions like those being trialled by AgriGrub and by other start-ups like Entocycle, who are looking at how insect protein could revolutionise the way we feed farmed animals. That’s why we have been looking at ways to facilitate the introduction of insect protein into our own supply chain – starting with aquaculture.

But whilst the use of insect feed in salmon supply chains is already a possibility, for now, regulation and market conditions mean barriers stand in the way of the scaled use of insects as a soy alternative in animal feed.

That’s why, as part of our partnership with WWF, we have jointly commissioned research to map out how this can be done at scale. The report calls for government to build on this report and develop financial incentives to support innovative farming methods, such as insect farming, which will support the scale up of these new industries.

At Tesco, we’re playing our part by trialling the use of insect feed in our aquaculture supply chain. Voluntary industry-wide commitments can play a key role in helping to develop the insect feed sector, by providing the right signals to support insect feed production.

Insect feed is only one example of the kind of game-changing solutions that must be scaled up across global supply chains to ensure precious forests and habitats are preserved

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