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Farmed cricket (Acheta domesticus, Gryllus assimilis, and Gryllodes sigillatus; Orthoptera) welfare considerations: recommendations for improving global practice

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posted on 2024-03-01, 09:33 authored by E. Rowe, K.Y. Robles López, K.M. Robinson, K.M. Baudier, M. Barrett

Orthoptera, such as crickets, is currently the most reared group of hemimetabolous insects in the insects as food and feed industry, with over 370 billion individuals slaughtered and/or sold live annually. The most-farmed cricket species is Acheta domesticus, however there is growing interest in farming at least two additional species, Gryllus assimilis and Gryllodes sigillatus. Crickets are largely being explored for use as human protein, and exotic animal or pet feed ‒ as well as, to a lesser extent, livestock and fish feed. Insect welfare is of growing interest to consumers who are considering incorporating insect protein into their diets, as well as to many producers. However, no studies have considered the welfare concerns of farmed crickets under current industry conditions. Using an established model for assessing farmed insect welfare, we assess potential welfare concerns for the three most-farmed cricket species, including: interspecific interactions (including parasites and pathogens), temperature and humidity, light cycles, electrical shocks, atmospheric gas levels, nutrition and hydration, environmental pollutants, injury and crowding, density, handling-associated stress, genetics and selection, enrichments, transport-related challenges, and stunning, anesthesia, and slaughter/depopulation methods. From our assessment of these factors, we make recommendations for improving cricket welfare now and as the industry continues to grow; in addition, we identify research directions that will improve our understanding of cricket welfare. We conclude by broadly discussing the importance of addressing the welfare challenges presented by the insects as food and feed industry for the animals and for the growth and health of the industry itself.

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