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Better Origin looks at the benefits of feeding insects to poultry

Better Origin, a Cambridge-based insect farming start-up, has recently shared a result of their trial documenting the impact of insect supplementation on laying hens.

The company’s product – the X1 – is an autonomous, AI-powered insect farm that turns food waste into high-quality insect protein that can be fed to animals.

The black soldier fly larvae that grow inside the container are a common species known for their voracious appetite. They can convert virtually any organic waste, including manure, into food and feed. However, the insects fed to animals usually feed on fruit, vegetables, and cereals, as per current UK and EU regulations. Insects are a natural part of a hen’s diet – when left to roam free, the birds will forage for insects and small animals such as lizards. However, this valuable treat is often omitted in the modern poultry industry.

“It is known that birds who don’t get to exercise their natural behaviours, such as foraging, become stressed and are more likely to cause harm to each other. Stressed birds lose on performance and become more prone to disease outbreaks – just like humans.”

Miha Pipan, Better Origin’s co-founder and CSO

Better Origin, together with The University of Bristol and with the support of Innovate UK and Stonegate Ltd, have determined that swapping just a small amount of traditional poultry feed for insects can lead to a 4.5% increase in egg production. Furthermore, the birds also laid more eggs in the nest boxes, therefore reducing the number of floor-laid eggs that are a nuisance known to many farmers due to their reduced price.

An increase in natural behaviours was also observed, with hens spending less time pecking each other and more time foraging. This, together with better gut health and increased productivity, shows that insect supplementation has the potential to improve lives of many birds within the supply chain.

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