Insect farming in the EU: your questions answered


Insect farming in the EU: your questions answered

5 April 2023

While the topic of industrial insect farming might not be grabbing many headlines, make no mistake: the sector is growing very fast, and the EU needs to pay attention. If left unchecked, the meteoric rise of Europe’s insect farming industry could have a big effect on animal welfare, as well as the sustainability of our food systems.

We at Eurogroup for Animals have recently been supported to research this field and find out more about its potential impacts, along with the considerations policymakers need to bear in mind when acting on its future. Being fairly new territory - both to key decision-makers and the European public - we created this short FAQs document to help you learn more about it, and why it's an area we all need to be watching very closely. Read on.

1. What are the main purposes of insect farming?

Like other animals, insects are part of many people’s diets across the world - hence one of the reasons for the emergence of insect farming in Europe, as key decision-makers look for ways to feed the planet’s growing population and bolster our food systems. 

However, insects are increasingly being farmed to produce feed for other farmed animals. In fact, this is the biggest and most important aspect of the insect farming business, as it stands - and it could pose a huge threat to animal welfare. 

2. Is insect farming popular in Europe? How widespread is it?

Eating insects is not common in Europe, so insect farming has not developed here like it has in other parts of the world. Today, insect farming for food is not a very big industry and is having difficulty taking off. 

That said, Europe leads in insect farming to produce pet food and feed for fish, poultry and pigs. The largest facilities in the world and the biggest industrial players in this field are European, and are expanding to North America and Asia.

3. Which insects are currently farmed in the EU?

Nine species of insects have been authorised by the EU to produce either food or feed. Only four are authorised in food.

The most commonly-farmed insect species are the Black Soldier Fly and the Yellow Mealworm, which is the larval stage of a beetle. Both are used mainly as feed for animals, but also as a supplement in certain foods (e.g. pasta, bread and biscuits).

Insect species authorised in the EU for food and feed, January 2023




Hermetia Ilucens (Black Soldier Fly)

Locusta Migratoria (Grasshopper)

Musca Domestica (Common House Fly)

Acheta Domesticus (House Cricket)

Tenebrio Molitor (Yellow Mealworm)

Tenebrio Molitor (Yellow Mealworm)

Alphitobius Diaperinus (Lesser Mealworm)

Alphitobius Diaperinus (Lesser Mealworm)

Acheta Domesticus (House Cricket)

Gryllodes Sigillatus (Banded Cricket)

Gryllus Assimilis (Field Cricket)

Bombyx Mori (Silkworm)

4. How does insect farming relate to animal welfare?

Insect farming is intimately connected to animal welfare.

Firstly, insects are on track to become the most farmed species on the planet, with up to 50 trillion individual insects projected to be farmed by 2030. As farmed animals, it’s imperative that our understanding of their sentience improves - including their behavioural needs and how they feel pain - to ensure that insects do not suffer needlessly in farming facilities.

Secondly, as insects are predominantly used as feed for other farmed animals, the development of this industry is connected to the increased consumption of other intensively farmed species like hens, pigs and fish. There’s a lot of evidence to show that factory farms cause suffering for the animals that live within them - so by supporting these systems, the insect farming industry could support a future of farming that runs contrary to the Commission’s commitment to higher animal welfare standards.

5. Is the insect farming industry expected to grow?

Yes. The insect farming industry is banking on the increased consumption of meat and fish to increase the production and commercialisation of its feed products, such as insect meal and insect oil.

6. What impacts could a large insect farming industry have on the EU’s food and farming laws?

The EU is committed to making its agricultural and food sectors more sustainable and healthier for Europeans. This requires a move towards more plant-based diets, with less meat, fish and dairy. Further, any animal products that are to be consumed should be of better quality from healthier animals that are safeguarded by high welfare standards.

As producing feed from insects is touted as having a lower environmental footprint than traditional feeds (although this is not always the case), the EU food industry may argue it is making environmental progress by using insects in its feed, without truly addressing the environmental, health and animal welfare problems that intensive animal farming creates.

7. What can I do to stay up to date with this topic? Where can I learn more?

We’re still looking into this topic, so stay up to date with us on social media and our website to get the latest insights. You can also learn more in our reports: