Study sees performance benefits in insect-fed hens

INSECT-FED hens lay more eggs and live for longer, research from Cambridge-based agritech start-up, Better Origin, has revealed.

According to Feed Navigator, the data was collected by Better Origin working with Wern Farm in Wales over a two-year period. It compared the performance of two sheds of hens, with one fed a conventional diet (control flock) and the other with the basal diet and a supplement of 5% live insects.

Better Origin has developed insect mini farms, powered by artificial intelligence, which, using food waste as a raw material, generate Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae that can be added as a supplement to feed.

The study found that the insect-fed hen flock laid more eggs for longer while the control flock’s productivity dropped 2.4 times faster. As the flock aged, control flock mortality was higher, resulting in a loss of over 106,000 potential eggs compared to the insect-fed flock, reported Better Origin.

Feed Navigator reports that research also demonstrated that the supplemented hens appeared to be less stressed, exhibiting less pecking behaviour and having better feather coverage. It also increased feed efficiency which combined with the higher productivity, generated savings of £1 per hen, according to the startup.

Fotis Fotiadis, founder and CEO of Better Origin, called it an “incredible improvement in performance.”

The company is currently scaling up to a larger facility in Cambridgeshire. It already has a 10-container partnership with UK supermarket chain, Morrisons, where the retailer is converting food waste from its own supply chain into feed for insects. These in turn are fed to the chickens that produce eggs that go back into the Morrisons supply chain.

Since Better Origin launched in 2020 it has fed over 62,000 chickens across four farms, resulting in the laying of over 20m eggs.

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