One of the aspects of poultry welfare is whether birds can perform their natural behaviors - like pecking the ground - that although it gives us a check mark as thinking beings, I do not know if it helps the birds from a productive point of view. It may take stress off, but pecking around on the field is not stress-free.
When birds are pecking on the field, one of the things they do is eat insects. They certainly do so out of curiosity, but also for nourishment.
The idea of feeding birds with insect protein is now emerging, and together with this, companies that produce them in mass are emerging, too. Insects are bred to make high protein meals that can be incorporated into feeds. I don't think they will ever replace soybean meal or other protein sources, but I do think it can add a plus to feed. Think of this from a marketing point of view. If the chicken packaging says "hormone-free," when these compounds have never been commercially used, why can't it be "insect protein-fed?" That sounds more "natural," doesn't it?
A few days ago, I saw on TV a British poultry producer who, in addition to using regular feed, supplements his free-range hens (heaven forbid they were caged!) with black soldier flies he produced in a space conditioned for it. As soon as he put the box of live insects on the floor, hens leaped to eat them. It was evident hens love them and this was confirmed by the producer himself.
The insect protein industry is already here. There are several companies that produce them. There are even natural yeast additives that are already being sold to feed insects, which improve the nutritional profile of the resulting flour, in terms of protein and unsaturated fats content.
I see it as one more option in the market - an interesting and highly sustainable option. The latter is also important to consider, given the current times.
I am certainly surprised at how industry is moving forward, how things emerge that we would not have imagined a few years ago. I just hope that, please, groups of people will not go out there complaining about how overcrowded insect production conditions are, surrounded by feces and without enough space. Please.
What do you think?