Black Soldier Flies as a Value-Adding Tool within Organic Farming Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2012: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Hilary Halford
White Oak Pastures, Inc.
Lori Moshman
White Oak Pastures

Annual Reports


  • Animals: poultry, insects (black soldier flies)
  • Animal Products: meat, slaughter refuse


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed additives, feed formulation, feed management, meat processing, meat processing facilities
  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Energy: byproduct utilization
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, new enterprise development
  • Natural Resources/Environment: bioconversion
  • Pest Management: sanitation
  • Production Systems: dryland farming, integrated crop and livestock systems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: composting, organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, sustainability measures


    A trial population of black soldier fly larvae was raised on organic waste generated by the White Oak Pastures red meat abattoir during the summer months of 2012-2013.  Two different rearing approaches were utilized and an experiment was conducted to determine the rate of biomass conversion of organic waste to mature soldier fly larvae over the course of one generation.


    The production of free range organic poultry is economically and sustainably challenging for producers. The extended growing period required to raise mature, free range birds is generally twice that (12 weeks) of those raised in industrial chicken houses (6 weeks) (McMurray Hatchery, 2014) . Because birds are kept longer, all associated costs are higher per bird. Although free range poultry do receive a portion of their diet from their environment they also must be provided a supplemental feed in order to receive enough nourishment for proper development (Darre, n.d.).  The cost and availability of commercial organic feed can fluctuate with market demand and is generally more expensive than industrially suited feeds. In order for organic farmers to be competitive in raising free range poultry they must find ways to lower their operating costs. By developing a lower cost, higher protein organic feed source, theoretically poultry could be raised to maturity faster, thus reducing operating expenditures. Black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens, BSF) have been demonstrated to provide adequate fat and protein levels compared to traditional feed in the diets of fish, swine, and poultry, comprising 42% protein and 35% fat (Sheppard et al., 1995).  Additionally, BSF make a natural, low-cost management and nutrient recycling system for manure and other sources of bio-waste (Newton et al., 2005).  A recent study conducted at the Wageningen University and Research Center in Wageningen, Netherlands has indicated a strong feasibility of creating and maintaining large-scale feeding programs for swine and poultry using insect protein (Veldkamp et al., 2012).

    References cited:Darre, M.J. (n.d.) Everything You Need To Know About Raising Broiler Chickens.  Retrieved from Hatchery (2014).  Red Ranger Broiler.  Retrieved from  McMurray Hatchery (2014).  Jumbo Cornish X Rocks.  Retrieved from http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.comNewton, G.L., D.C. Sheppard, D.W. Watson, G.J. Burtle, C.R. Dove, J.K. Tomberlin, and E.E. Thelen. (2005). The black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, as a manure management / resource recovery tool. Proceedings  Symp. State of the Science: Animal Manure and Waste Manag. Jan. 5-7, 2005, San Antonio, TX.Sheppard, D.C., Newton, G.L., Thompson, S.A., & Savage, S. (1995).  A value added manure management system using the black soldier fly.  Bioresource Technology, 50: 275-279.Veldkamp, T., van Duinkerken, G., van Huis, A., Lakemond, C.M.M., Ottevanger, E., Bosch, G., & van Boekel, M.A.J.S. (2012).  Insects as a sustainable feed ingredient in pigand poultry diets - a feasibility study.  Wageningen UR Livestock Research, Report 638.

    Project objectives:

    The objective of the research is to test the effectiveness of BSF as a value adding tool in the production of supplemental organic free range poultry feed. This project seeks to further strengthen the Serengeti Model now in use at White Oak Pastures by filling a gap in the model that currently exists. Because over 60 chicken flocks (containing approximately 500 birds per flock) freely range on 80 acres there is a great need for supplemental feed. This research seeks to document how many pounds of eviscerate (X), with the help of black soldier fly (BSF) larvae, will consistently produce one hundred pounds of poultry feed (Z) in the form of BSF larvae, and how long (Y) it will take to accomplish the transformation: (X + BSF) x Y = Z (100 pounds of feed).

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.