Animal feed trials will initially be carried out on rats, mink and poultry. The aim is to assess and document the nutritional and health value of mealworms in feed. The knowledge from these experiments will be used for subsequent feeding trials on pigs to investigate digestibility and evaluate the effects of mealworm feedstuff on animal performance and health.
The feed application work package will assess and document the nutritional and health value of mealworms in feed by using state-of-the-art animal models. The animal trials will initially involve a rat study where diets, feces and urine will be analyzed to assess nitrogen utilization and a mink study assessing bioavailability and digestibility of the mealworm components.
Results from the rat study, which includes assessment of different pre-treatment techniques (e.g. addition of enzymes, hydrolysis and freeze-drying) of mealworms, will be used to design a dietary protein evaluation study with pigs using the recommended DIAAS (Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score protein) model.
The results generated in the DIAAS study on protein digestibility in pigs will be used for the assessment of mealworms for human nutrition (see work package on Food Application). Moreover, the data will likewise provide the basis for formulating diets in a second pig study that will evaluate the effects of mealworm as feed on pig performance and health. Newly weaned piglets housed individually will be fed diets containing mealworms and will be evaluated by growth performance parameters compared to a control diet. Intestinal contents will be incubated to investigate whether mealworms have an antimicrobial effect against E. coli (as pathogenic surrogate), where parallel samples of intestinal contents will be incubated after adding E. coli.
Alongside the pig studies, an experiment on broiler chickens will assess growth performance of using mealworms in starter feed.