As part of developing insect-fed value chains in aquaculture, InnovaFeed and its partners have conducted in-depth research on the impact of including insect protein in salmonids feed on the end product quality and taste. Expertly trained taste testers have evaluated salmon/trout fillets in comparative trials. In research, no experts were able to organoleptically differentiate insect-fed salmon or trout from traditionally-fed counterparts.
Seafood is a delicious way to support a well-balanced and conscientious diet. Consumed regularly, it is able to support a healthy life-style – being rich in protein and good fatty acids such as omega -3’s, and with a great balance of micro-nutrients such as iron and vitamin B.
These benefits will become crucial as we tackle the challenges of an ever-increasing population. As a matter of fact, Europeans consume on average around 25kg of fish each year (although some nations have an average more than double this). Globally fish accounts for ~20% of protein consumed, but in coastal regions this can grow to as high as 70% (FAO, SOFIA), with the world’s population growing to 8 billion, aquaculture has grown to meet this demand. To support this growth sustainably the aquafeeds industry has had to innovate – using ingredients that are outside the traditional basket. As those aquafeeds evolve in their composition, the distinctive taste and high quality of the final product for consumers must be preserved.
InnovaFeed’s Protinova is an insect-derived protein meal, and a sustainable way to replace fish meal in the diets of salmon and trout. It has CO2 impact at least 50% lower than fishmeal and zero impact on the marine environment. It is recognized by many feed manufacturers as a leading novel ingredient to support the growth of sustainable aquaculture, and is now proving through rigorous testing that it also protects (or even improves!) the quality of the fish fillets bought and enjoyed by consumers.
While it can be debated at a philosophical level that taste is both personal and beyond reasoning, there is actually a science behind measuring and quantifying the taste of produce, with well-established protocols and independent research centers that specialize in providing the results! As part of developing insect-fed value chains in aquaculture, InnovaFeed and its partners have conducted in-depth research on the impact of including insect protein in salmonids feed on the end product quality and taste.
Expertly trained taste testers have evaluated salmon/trout fillets in comparative trials. Across ~20 pre-determined parameters evaluating taste, smell, texture and appearance they have seen no significant difference between traditionally-fed salmonids and insect-fed salmon and trouts with the exception of a more intense coloration of the flesh and improved juiciness (Fig 1.)
When faced with a triangular test – designed to determine if expert tasters are able to identify an “experimental” sample in a blind test – no experts were able to organoleptically differentiate insect-fed salmon or trout from traditionally-fed salmon.
These results were confirmed by InnovaFeed through several independent trials across both salmon and trout and are supported by literature describing trials conducted by other actors whom also concluded that there is no negative impact on the sensory experience for consumers through the inclusion of black soldier fly proteins (Lock et al, 2015). In fact, the nutritional analysis conducted on fillets support there is no significant impact on composition, and thus quality, whilst actually some trends indicating higher Omega 3 retention in the fish’s flesh that could explain the boost in juiciness and the intensity of color (both factors being related to fatty acid absorption).
FROM LAB-TESTED TO REAL LIFE VALIDATION
Beyond lab-testing, InnovaFeed has collaborated for several years with the network of chef Eurotoques to assess and demonstrate the quality of insect-fed trout and salmon. In 2018, two stars Michelin awarded Chef Remy Giraud prepared for an exclusive degustation the first batch of insect-protein fed trout in the world – it inspired him to create a special recipe for insect-fed trout which is available for download on the insect-fed website. In 2019, six world-renown French chefs, added insect-fed trout to their menu, showing their strong support for this novel and high-quality produce.
“I am a fisherman, trout feed on insects, larvae, and small butterflies. They feed on insects, so we return to values, to nature… it’s (insect-fed trout) great: high quality product” says ambassador chef Eddy Creuzé.
Yet, the performance on shelves in supermarkets of insect-fed trout is perhaps the most telling indicator of its taste and quality! In 2018 Auchan launched (with partners Truite service, Skretting, and InnovaFeed) the world’s first insect-fed fish value chain. Key to the concept was that consumers would be able to recognize, through a specific label on the packaging, those trout fed on insects as distinct – as shown on the photo. Since 2018 this value chain has expanded across France, and sales have outperformed expectations with sales rising of 40% over the past 2019 and 2020 while other seafood produces experienced much lower growth. This success has actually led to the launch of other insect-fed value chains including for poultry and swine over the past two years.
Insects are a sustainable ingredient that is proven to keep salmon and trout delicious, while ensuring that consumers and the planet can stay happy and healthy. As insects have a natural place at heart of food chains (up to 70% of a trout’s natural diet), their ability to support the final fillet quality is unsurprising. In 2020 InnovaFeed launched the world’s largest insect vertical farm, with the ambition of supporting the sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry and providing consumers with the same great products, with a faction of the environmental cost.
About Andrew Richardson
Andrew Richardson is the Aqua Nutrition Manager at InnovaFeed SAS, a leading insect producer, whose mission it is to support sustainable food and feed systems by putting insects back at the heart of food chains.