Black soldier fly as dietary protein source for broiler quails: apparent digestibility, excreta microbial load, feed choice, performance, carcass and meat traits

Animal. 2016 Dec;10(12):1923-1930. doi: 10.1017/S1751731116001270. Epub 2016 Jun 24.


In order to expand with validated scientific data the limited knowledge regarding the potential application of insects as innovative feed ingredients for poultry, the present study tested a partial substitution of soya bean meal and soya bean oil with defatted black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae meal (H) in the diet for growing broiler quails (Coturnix coturnix japonica) on growth performance, mortality, nutrients apparent digestibility, microbiological composition of excreta, feed choice, carcass and meat traits. With this purpose, a total of 450 10-day-old birds were allocated to 15 cages (30 birds/cage) and received three dietary treatments: a Control diet (C) and two diets (H1 and H2) corresponding to 10% and 15% H inclusion levels, respectively (H substituted 28.4% soya bean oil and 16.1% soya bean meal for H1, and 100% soya bean oil and 24.8% soya bean meal for H2, respectively). At 28 days of age, quails were slaughtered, carcasses were weighed, breast muscles were then excised from 50 quails/treatment, weighed, and ultimate pH (pHu) and L*, a*, b* colour values were measured. Breast muscles were then cooked to assess cooking loss and meat toughness. For the digestibility trial, a total of 15 28-day-old quails were assigned to the three feeding groups. The excreta samples were subjected to chemical and microbiological analysis. The same 15 quails were then simultaneously provided with C and H2 diets for a 10-day feed choice trial. Productive performance, mortality and carcass traits were in line with commercial standards and similar in all experimental groups. With the exception of ether extract digestibility, which was lower in H1 group compared with C and H2 (P=0.0001), apparent digestibility of dry matter, CP, starch and energy did not differ among treatments. Microbial composition of excreta was also comparable among the three groups. Feed choice trial showed that quails did not express a preference toward C or H2 diets. Breast meat weight and yield did not differ among C, H1 and H2 quails. Differently, the inclusion of H meal reduced meat pHu compared with C. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that H. illucens larvae meal can partially replace conventional soya bean meal and soya bean oil in the diet for growing broiler quails, thus confirming to be a promising insect protein source for the feed industry. Further research to assess the impact of H meal on intestinal morphology as well as on meat quality and sensory profile would be of utmost importance.

Keywords: digestibility; feed choice; insect meal; performance; quail.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis*
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Diet / veterinary*
  • Dietary Proteins / analysis*
  • Digestion / physiology
  • Glycine max
  • Larva / chemistry
  • Meat / standards*
  • Pectoralis Muscles
  • Quail / physiology
  • Simuliidae / chemistry*


  • Dietary Proteins