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Live larvae promote broiler activity and leg health

broilers in a pen during the experiment

LIVE black soldier fly larvae have been shown to encourage more natural behaviour in broilers and improve leg health, new analysis has suggested.

Researchers at Wageningen University said birds offered the larvae as an enrichment were motivated to forage for it, increasing movement and leg health.

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Allyson Ipema, who worked on the project, said larvae were also nutritionally valuable, and their inclusion could supplement poultry rations.

“There is a maximum to this, though. If we supplement the diet for more than 10% with insects, the broilers will probably grow less fast,” she said.

The research saw broilers in experimental pens offered larvae in different quantities at different times of the day.

Foraging

A follow-up piece of work saw the larvae offered in plastic tubes that had holes in, further encouraging foraging behaviour.

“We really saw that the broilers were motivated all day long to get to the larvae’, added Ms Allyson. “The broilers showed a lot of natural foraging behaviour: they kept scratching and pecking at the larvae.”

There are potential environmental benefits to supplementing poultry diets with insects, explained associate professor Liesbeth Bolhuis.

“An additional advantage is that the larvae from this research can easily be grown on manure and waste.”

“This also makes them a potentially sustainable and circular food source.”

Feeding live insect larvae to commercial poultry is allowed under EU law (transcribed into UK law). Feeding dead larvae is not yet permitted.