Eating insects is good for you and the planet, researchers insist

Eating insects is good for you and the planet, researchers insist
It is vital to find alternative and sustainable sources of protein to meet the considerable challenge of ensuring food security for the future. Credit: Shutterstock

Does the idea of eating insects bug you?

Well, think about this: the United Nations predicts that by 2050, if current trends continue, the world's population will reach 9.8 billion. As a result, global demand for food and feed is expected to increase by 70 percent, putting additional pressure on already overexploited agricultural resources.

Global demand for meat in particular will continue to increase as dietary habits in developing countries change, due to rapid urbanization and economic growth.

The oceans are already over-exploited and climate change will have a profound impact on food production. Meanwhile, nearly one billion people worldwide suffer from chronic food deprivation.

Among the possible solutions, one is quietly making its way into the public's attention: eating .

Alternatives to animal protein

To meet current and future food challenges, the agri-food sector needs to be rethought. We need to find new ways to grow food, address inefficiencies and develop new approaches to production methods.

In addition to population growth, urbanization and the rise of the middle class in developing countries are increasing global demand for food, especially . The production of traditional ingredients such as cereals, fish meal and oilseeds must be reduced and substitutes found to make more efficient use of resources.

Eating insects is good for you and the planet, researchers insist
Some of the protein produced for livestock feed comes from sources that may be unsustainable and harmful to the environment. Credit: Shutterstock

The billions of raised each year for food are putting increasing pressure on land and water resources and contributing to climate change and other negative environmental impacts.

Livestock farming for meat production puts considerable pressure on global land and water use. At present, a large proportion of the protein produced for comes from sources that are sometimes unsustainable and harmful to the environment.

Eating insects

To meet the considerable challenge of ensuring food security for the future, it is imperative to find alternative and sustainable sources of protein, both for direct human consumption and for animal feed. Insect-derived proteins are one possible solution. Insects, especially , have many qualities that make them well adapted to animal feed.

For example, insects are already a natural source of food for pigs and poultry as well as for many fish species. In addition, are generally high in protein and are rich in other beneficial nutrients such as fats, minerals and vitamins.

Eating insects is good for you and the planet, researchers insist
Sushi served with fried grasshoppers is popular in Thailand. Credit: Shutterstock

As a source of for direct human consumption, insects offer several advantages over traditional sources of meat. They have a significantly higher feed conversion rate than other livestock, which means they are more effective at converting the ingredients used to feed them into nutrients.

In addition, insect production is more environmentally friendly than conventional livestock production. Insects release much lower amounts of greenhouse gases and ammonia into the atmosphere per kilogram of meat than cattle or pigs.

Larvae that recycle

Insect larvae, in particular, are efficient consumers of a wide range of organic materials. They have the ability to "over-cycle" relatively low quality organic residues as feedstock into valuable proteins and lipids.

Although direct human consumption of insects is not widespread in Western countries, raising insects to transform organic waste streams offers an interesting opportunity to produce food ingredients for animal production. In particular, the larvae of the black soldier fly has a nutritional profile that makes them a potential ingredient to replace traditional food ingredients intended for human consumption.

Eating insects is good for you and the planet, researchers insist
Fried insects in a street kitchen in Bangkok, Thailand. Credit: Shutterstock

Multinational munching

The cultivation of insects raised specifically for domestic animals and fish has been the subject of sporadic assessments for several decades. However, the widespread adoption and commercialization of these approaches remains difficult. The methods are still artisanal and have been mainly developed and deployed in emerging countries with limited resources.

However, a convergence of factors has revived interest in this area, particularly from a number of multinationals in the agri-food sector. A combination of new municipal regulations limiting organic waste disposal and the need to find sustainable ingredients for animal feed have led to renewed interest in insects and their ability to transform organic waste into valuable resources.


Explore further

Humans will eat maggots, scientists insist

Provided by The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.The Conversation

Citation: Eating insects is good for you and the planet, researchers insist (2019, June 28) retrieved 24 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-06-insects-good-planet-insist.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jun 28, 2019
Shocking to know that UN morals have fallen to the lowest since its formation. Instead of stopping the wastage of food by developed countries and redistributing the food to the needy countries, UN is proposing stupid and immoral ideas.

Jun 28, 2019
What's immoral about eating bugs? I just don't see that as a moral issue.

Jun 30, 2019
The claim and harvesting of insects as food is purely an unethical practice. Insects are natural food for other insects in the food chain, birds, aquatic/sea fauna etc. They do not have other options to feed on, but humans do have other alternatives. It is like strong man snatching bread from a weak/disabled person. Man must not disturb the natural ecosystem of the planet.

Jun 30, 2019
The claim and harvesting of insects as food is purely an unethical practice. Insects are natural food for other insects in the food chain, birds, aquatic/sea fauna etc. They do not have other options to feed on, but humans do have other alternatives. It is like strong man snatching bread from a weak/disabled person. Man must not disturb the natural ecosystem of the planet.
So... in other words if people begin eating insects then there won't be enough insects for other insects to eat? Maybe we could just stop killing trillions of them with insecticides and then problem solved.

Idiots are propagating like roaches on this site. I THINK because they're trying to kill it. Too many incredibly stupid flooders here of late to be a natural phenomenon. Inbred trolls, vandals, jealous competitors...?

Dont mods care? Maybe physorg needs a reason to get rid of the comments section. Is 'trasher' a job description?

Jun 30, 2019
Hmmmm, sounds like an excuse to me, particularly with all the harm we're doing to animals. Killing insects is known to be karmically null.

And insects are attracted by catastrophes.

Did you know that the total mass of ants alone is equal to the total mass of humans? And if you really want to see some prolific bugs, check out beetles. JBS Haldane once joked that "God loves beetles." There are over 400,000 species of beetles, some 40% of all known species.

I think it's OK to eat them.

Jul 03, 2019
Then, if it's not an ethical/moral issue, one day UN may allow abandoned/donated corpses of humans for protein and the insect-as-food supporters should not have problem with that.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more