Species-Specific Discrimination of Insect Meals for Aquafeeds by Direct Comparison of Tandem Mass Spectra

Ikram Belghit, Erik-Jan Lock, Olivier Fumière, Marie-Caroline Lecrenier, Patricia Renard, Marc Dieu, Marc H G Berntssen, Magnus Palmblad, Josef D Rasinger

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Insect protein has the potential to become a sustainable feed ingredient for the rapidly growing aquaculture industry. In the European Union, insect derived protein is placed under the same legislation as processed animal proteins (PAP). It is therefore of interest to develop methods for regulatory use, which unambiguously identify the species origin of insect-based ingredients. We performed (i) total protein quantification of insect samples using the traditional nitrogen-to-protein conversion factor of 6.25 and the sum of anhydrous amino acids, (ii) quantitative amino acid profiling and (iii) high-throughput tandem mass spectrometry to describe and differentiate 18 different commercial-grade insect meal samples derived from Hermetia illucens (8), Tenebrio molitor (5), Alphitobius diaperinus (3) and Acheta domesticus (2). In addition, we investigated and compared different protein extraction and digestion protocols for proteomic analysis. We found that irrespective of sample preparation, shotgun proteomics in combination with direct spectral comparison were able to differentiate insect meal according to their taxonomic classification. The insect specific spectral libraries created in the present work can in future be used to develop more sensitive targeted methods of insect PAP identification and quantification in commercial feed mixtures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number222
Number of pages15
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2019


  • insect meal
  • shotgun proteomics
  • species differentiation
  • protein quantification


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