Morrisons introduces insect 'mini farms' on ten egg sites

Free range hens will be fed insects as the retailer looks to cut down on its use of soya feed
Free range hens will be fed insects as the retailer looks to cut down on its use of soya feed

Morrisons will introduce insect 'mini farms' on ten of its free range egg farms as part of an effort to reduce its use of soya feed.

Hens will be fed insects as well as a supplementary diet of beans, peas and sunflower seeds, the retailer announced on Wednesday (1 December).

The ‘mini farm’ containers, in which millions of insects are kept, will provide nutrient rich and natural food for the hens.

The insects will be fed on waste from Morrisons own fruit and veg site in Yorkshire, a move which the retailer says will create one of the UK’s first ‘circular waste’ feeding schemes.

Soya currently accounts for 10-20% of hens’ normal diets. Up to 70% of the emissions from the UK’s supply chain is attributed to feed, of which soya is a major contributor.

Reducing soya and feeding insects food waste on these 10 farms is expected to save 56 hectares of South American land from deforestation every year, where half of the world’s soybean is currently farmed.

Morrisons say it will also reduce CO² emissions by 5,737 tonnes and save 40 billion litres of water annually.

The insect units have been developed by agri-tech company Better Origin, with each container capable of feeding 32,000 hens.

Collectively the 10 containers will feed 320,000 free range hens who lay millions of eggs a year.

Insects are a natural part of birds' ancestral diets and wild birds seek out insects as they forage.

Studies by Better Origin and the Universities of Bristol and Turin have found that insect feed improves bird health and welfare.

Sophie Throup, head of agriculture at Morrisons, said that reducing soya from livestock feed was one of the key challenges for farms needing to lower their carbon footprint.

"An insect diet could suit our hens better - they seem to enjoy it - and the nutritional and added health benefits are notable. We’re also finding a good home for our fruit and veg waste.

"We think that this could be part of the future of egg farming.”

Morrisons says it will launch its first carbon neutral eggs next year, followed by carbon neutral options for fruit, vegetables and meat in the coming years.