Where is Feeding Mealworms to Chickens Illegal?

When it comes to feeding our chickens, insects make some of the best food around when they need a little extra protein. Chickens naturally eat all kinds of bugs, and they are a vital source of calories, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. It just makes sense when you think about it!

lots of mealworms

But as strange as it might seem, feeding bugs, like mealworms, to chickens is actually illegal in some parts of the world. Hard to imagine why this would be the case, but it’s true. So, where is it illegal to feed mealworms to chickens?

Presently it is illegal to feed mealworms and other insects to chickens in the UK and throughout the EU. It is legal to feed mealworms to chickens in the United States.

That might be surprising to some readers, but now it actually has me worried a little bit. Do the English and the rest of Europe know something that we don’t about the threat of mealworms?

Are mealworms really okay for chickens? Are they restricted in any way in the United States? This is a complicated topic, and one that you need answers to if you have a flock of your own. We will get right into it down below…

So It’s Legal to Feed Mealworms to Chickens in the US?

Yes. And you can depend on that: it is 100% legal to feed mealworms to chickens in the United States.

Mealworms, for good reason, are a great snack and dietary supplement for our birds, and it’s something that they eat all the time in the wild if they can find them. Them, and lots of other bugs!

So what is the reason why some countries would see fit to ban the feeding of mealworms to chickens? I’ll answer that question in the next section and give you the reasons why. You can make up your own mind about whether or not it’s actually a good idea.

Why Have the UK and EU Made Mealworms Illegal as Chicken Food?

As mentioned, both the UK and the EU have made the feeding of mealworms to chickens illegal. That’s it, the end. However, it’s important to look at why they did that…

I’m abbreviating a little bit, but not much: basically, in the UK back in the 80s, there were some very public, very scary, and detrimental outbreaks of mad cow disease in herds of cows.

Mad cow, more properly called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a devastating disease that breaks down the brain tissue of cows and causes death eventually. It’s also transmissible to humans, and that is indeed what happened to a few unfortunate souls.

That’s bad enough, but there was another outbreak in the 2000s; and the same thing occurred. It was determined, or suspected, that cows ate some sort of feed that had animal-derived proteins in it.

Animal-derived proteins are exactly what they say they are, but depending on what those animals ate, there is no telling what sort of transmissible diseases might make their way into the animals that have started eating the feed containing them!

You can see where this is going. In response, England and shortly thereafter the rest of the EU announced a specific ban on feeding any kind of livestock, including chickens, any kind of animal-derived protein that came from animals that might have eaten some other animal protein. Does that make sense?

And, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, mealworms and other insects are considered animals and also animal protein, and because these countries had no way to verify whether domestically or foreign-produced mealworms intended for commercial consumption had indeed been fed animal proteins, this resulted in a blanket ban.

You can check out the relevant regulations here for the UK and here for the EU.

You Can’t Feed Mealworms to Ducks or Other Poultry in Europe, Either

And just to clarify, mealworms are illegal for other poultry throughout the UK and EU also. You can’t feed them to ducks, geese, swans, turkeys, guineas, anything. The ban covers the feeding of mealworms to all livestock, not just chickens.

Mealworms Can Carry Diseases and Parasites That Can Be Passed to Livestock

Mealworms can carry various diseases, parasites, and other things you definitely don’t want your chickens to ingest, or people to ingest by extension. If the chickens eat the mealworms and then people eat the chickens, that’s the food chain at work, my friends!

Mealworms have been known to carry a variety of nasty things like bacteria, various parasites, viruses, fungi, all sorts of man-made toxins, heavy metals, and a lot more. Gross stuff, right? Well, it gets worse…

Some commercially produced mealworms are fed natural or synthetic hormones and other concoctions that will alter their life cycle, forcing them to grow to an unnatural, huge size.

These are then sold as a specialty chicken treat or sold by weight simply to increase profits. The implications of this are, frankly, almost totally unknown.

And worst of all, mealworms might be fed completely indigestible inorganic stuff like styrofoam! Who would do such a thing? What’s the point?

It doesn’t matter: apparently for whatever reason, mealworms will eat some indigestible materials and unscrupulous mealworm farmers might do this to increase profits even more.

Suffice it to say, you definitely don’t want your poor chickens eating this stuff and you wouldn’t want to eat any chicken that was fed them.

There Are Basically No Regulations on Raising Commercial Mealworms

And this brings us full circle back to the United States. I will say this succinctly: I urge you to raise your own mealworms if you plan on feeding them to your chickens, ducks, or other animals.

They’re not hard to raise, and this way you can completely control and be assured of what the mealworms eat before your chickens eat them in turn.

If you aren’t willing to take this essential step, it is imperative that you thoroughly research any vendor or supplier that you are getting your mealworms from.

There is no telling what they’ve been feeding them, and there are plenty of unethical operations out there. The health of your chickens, your customers, and maybe even you and your family depend on it…

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