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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Fayetteville, Arkansas » Poultry Production and Product Safety Research » Research » Research Project #440399

Research Project: Evaluate the Ability of Insect Meal to Reduce Colonization of Foodborne Pathogens in Broiler Chickens

Location: Poultry Production and Product Safety Research

Project Number: 6022-32420-001-020-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2021
End Date: Jun 30, 2026

1. Determining the ability of selected insect meals (eg. Tenebrio molitor, Hermetia illucens) to inhibit foodborne pathogens in vitro. 2. Conduct nutrient analysis of insect meals and identify optimal levels of inclusion in poultry diets for reducing foodborne pathogens such as Campylobacter and Salmonella in broiler chicks. 3. Evaluate the effect of select insect meals on growth parameters, meat quality and sensory characteristics of meat following inclusion in broiler diets.

USDA-ARS and University of Arkansas are both interested in the development of antibiotic alternatives to reduce food borne pathogens for the poultry industry. The enteric pathogens Salmonella and Campylobacter infect poultry leading to potential disease and are significant agents for human food borne illness. Our research team has conducted studies on the efficacy of several natural alternatives for prevention of foodborne diseases associated with poultry products. Insects have been proposed as a sustainable feed alternative for poultry as they provide high quality nutrients while demonstrating sustainable production. While current results indicate great potential for insect meal use in poultry diets, very little is known regarding the effect of insects on food safety. Insects are rich in antibacterial compounds including chitin, lauric acid, and antimicrobial peptides indicating an ability of insect meal to decrease pathogen load and enhance safety of poultry products. The current project seeks to advance the sustainability of the poultry industry by investigating the safety of insect meal as a novel, environmentally friendly feed source for poultry diets and its ability to reduce reliance on antibiotics to control food pathogens responsible for human infections without negatively impacting bird performance. To evaluate the antimicrobial efficacy of insect meals in vitro, insect meal extracts will be prepared. Antimicrobial activities of insect meal extracts against select bacterial species will be assessed by determining the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC), minimum bactericidal concentration (MBC) and sub-inhibitory concentration (SIC). These results will be used to calculate the inclusion rates for a subsequent in vivo trial determining the ability of insect meals to reduce cecal colonization of S. Enteritidis and C. jejuni. We will also evaluate the effect of insect meal on gut health and cecal microbiome. We anticipate that properly processed insect meal can improve food safety of final products when included in poultry diets without negatively affecting the health and performance of broiler chickens. We will also conduct postharvest evaluation of the effects of the insect meal treatments on the meat quality and consumer acceptability of poultry products.