A sustainable future for all has been a recurring theme in major international conferences. Many commentators acknowledge the importance of sustainable agriculture in realizing a sustainable future for everyone. Organic farming is a mechanism for producing quality food for humanity while doing little harm to the environment. While organic crop farming has been widely explored, organic poultry farming remains understudied.
Although conventional commercial poultry farming remains popular, insect-based chicken farming could soon be the typical means of rearing chicken.
As an organic poultry farming method, insect-based chicken farming employs insects such as black soldier fly larvae (BSFL, Hermetia illucens) as an alternative to commercial chicken feeds. These flies are easy to breed and contain high levels of a protein crucial for the growth of birds.
Besides being environment-friendly and a protein source, BSFL also offers a sustainable waste disposal solution. BSF eggs are incubated in organic waste collected from markets. This enhances the cleanliness of market areas and provides administrators with alternative waste disposal solutions. Additionally, the waste from BSF can be used to make compost manure used in farms to increase crop yields.
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Recent research shows that using BSF larvae as chicken feed supplements positively impacts a farmer’s income. Among these benefits is reducing the cost of rearing the birds and increasing profits. Additionally, chickens gain weight faster when they feed on BSF larvae than on conventional feeds. Therefore, they become ready for the market sooner.
Feeding chicken on BSF larvae is safe as the flies do not transmit diseases. Further research has shown that insects such as BSF have a more nutritious amino acid composition, supporting the immune system. As such, BSF-based poultry farming is beneficial to the health of those who consume the chicken. Relatedly, the excreta from BSF-fed chicken can be used to enhance soil fertility which is suitable for crop yields.
While breeding insects as poultry feed may be a peculiar notion at the moment, it cannot be disregarded entirely. Insect-based poultry farming provides a sustainable way of producing poultry feed with low environmental impacts. Chicken feeds derived from insects such as BSF provide excellent nutritional quality and can be grown sustainably on diverse organic waste streams.
Although there may be uncertainties associated with the use of insects in poultry farming, these uncertainties rarely border on quality or sustainability. Instead, they could be related to consumer attitudes or legislation. However, there is little doubt that insect feed is an organic method of poultry farming that will ultimately enhance sustainability.
Annaciata Mwololo is a sanitation and environmental expert