Insect meal in poultry feed: a potential protein source
ABSTRACT. The present study aims to conduct a review on the potential use of insect meal as an alternative protein source in poultry feed, particularly to serve the rearing of free-range chickens. Insects are already part of the diet of birds in their natural habitat, and the availability of low-cost alternative foods with low environmental impact is essential for the development of the activity. The review comprehended studies that used meals consisting of silkworm (Bombyx mori) chrysalis, earthworm (Eisenia foetida), housefly (Musca domestica), black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) and mealworm beetle (Tenebrio molitor) to replace plant-based protein sources. In general, insect meals have a high content of crude protein and ether extract, as well as an essential amino acid profile suitable for poultry feeding. The addition of insect meal in poultry feed normally shows good results as to growth performance and egg production, without causing a negative effect on carcass characteristics, meat sensory quality and egg quality, presenting itself as an alternative protein source with good prospects for replacing plant-based sources in poultry feed.