Animal Nutrition

Does the use of full-fat insect meal in their diets support gut function and growth of weaned piglets?

There is much interest in the use of insects, such as the black soldier fly larvae (BSFL), as sustainable protein sources for use in pig feed in the EU, particularly as recent legislative developments in the bloc mean the supplementation of feed with such processed animal proteins is now authorized. 

In that context, researchers from the Faculty of Biosciences at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) decided to investigate the effect of increased inclusion of full-fat BSFL in diets for post-weaning pigs on growth performance parameters, digestibility of nutrients, gut morphology, and the microbial community in the colon.

The team, writing in Animal Feed Science and Technology​,​ outlined how BSFL contains chitin, medium-chain fatty acids, and antimicrobial peptides, components that could improve the gastrointestinal function and health of the post-weaning pig.

If not defatted, BSFL is high in fat, especially in lauric acid (12:0; Finke, 2013), which is categorized as a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) with antimicrobial effects, especially against gram-positive bacteria (Zentek et al., 2011), they said.

“Insects and insect larvae also contain chitin, a dietary polysaccharide that can function as a prebiotic and an immunostimulant (Song et al., 2014). Finally, antimicrobial peptides, which are part of the insect immune system, are effective antimicrobial agents with low risk of development of bacteria resistance (Lewies et al., 2019).

“The antimicrobial peptides have good potential as health promoters in livestock, even though there is limited information about the in vivo effects (Wang et al., 2016).