The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently issued a report calling for wider uptake of insect for food and feed. Citing benefits such as quality nutrition, fast reproduction and even low greenhouse gas emissions, the FAO suggests that the food industry should add insects to restaurant menus to help overcome western aversion to eating them.
Although most westerners would turn their nose up to a dish of fried beetles, two billion people around the globe currently consume insects as part of their daily diet, according to the UN FAO report.
Still, the UN considers edible insects to be an excellent but poorly utilized food source that suffers from undue discrimination in certain countries.
Rich in minerals, fats, and protein, insects also reproduce quickly and have high feed to protein conversion rates – 12 times higher than cattle for the same amount of protein, for example.
And whereas livestock are responsible for a dangerous level of greenhouse gas emissions, insects are said to emit less ammonia. In other words, insects are not only a good source of nutrition, but eating them is a smarter environmental choice for a planet in crisis.
The FAO also suggests that insects are a “promising alternative” for livestock feed.
“Nevertheless, a tremendous amount of work still needs to be done by a wide range of stakeholders over many years to fully realize the potential that insects offer for food and feed security,” the report’s authors note.
The food industry could help by adding more tasty insects to recipes in order to mitigate the “eww” factor, while a dedicated education program should focus on both the nutritional and environmental benefits of incorporating edible insects into more diets.
“Additionally, insect rearing should be promoted and encouraged as a socially inclusive activity. Rearing insects requires minimal technical knowledge and capital investment and, since it does not require access to or ownership of land, lies within the reach of even the poorest and most vulnerable members of society,” the report adds.
“In the future, as the prices of conventional animal proteins increase, insects may well become a cheaper source of protein than conventionally produced meat and ocean- caught fish. For this to occur, there will need to be significant technological innovation, changes in consumer preferences, insect-encompassing food and feed legislation, and more sustainable food production.”
Image of insect dish, Shutterstock