Edible Insects: The Protein of the Poor?

22 Oct 2014

While three quarters of the food industry and NGOs claim to be looking for solutions to solve the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population, two vital questions still go unanswered: How will corporate responsibility initiatives lead to finding solutions to the world food challenge? How prepared are we as citizens (and corporations) to take the […]

Edible Insects: The Protein of the Poor?

While three quarters of the food industry and NGOs claim to be looking for solutions to solve the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population, two vital questions still go unanswered:

  1. How will corporate responsibility initiatives lead to finding solutions to the world food challenge?
  2. How prepared are we as citizens (and corporations) to take the steps necessary to reduce biodiversity devastation?

Is there no other way or viable alternative?

A small, mighty and much-overlooked source of protein has been buzzing around news and media channels over the past decade: entomophagy, otherwise known as the consumption of insects as food.

Entomophagy is already common in many parts of the world. Slowly but surely, the prospect of introducing insects into our daily diet as a viable alternative for North Americans and Europeans is gaining traction. Once the personal opinions and genuine “ick factor” are set aside, that is.

In an attempt to dismiss insect protein as a viable alternative, many say edible insects are food for the poor. In some regions of the world where resources are scarce, insect protein may be the only alternative. But to assume it is a poor man’s food is to insult some fellow countries’ cultures where edible insects are a staple, traditional food and even, in some cases, a true delicacy!

The immediate challenge, however, is to move forward on resolving regulatory issues and establishing a scalable way of breeding, transforming and distributing edible insects as a significant protein source for human consumption.

Progress and awareness are being made thanks to top universities worldwide and the dedication of entomology experts such as Professors Eric Haubruge, Jürg Grunder and Arnold van Huis and companies like New Generation Nutrition BV, Insect Europe BV, Aspire among other brave ones.

Today, effective support is limited only to two or three pioneering authorities and Research Centers with vision. One day in the near future, my hope is that the “taboo” around including insects in our diet will soften, and that the subject will be brought up more frequently at planetary conferences and congressional committees.

Can entomophagy solve all the world’s protein deficiency problems or demands? No – but it is certain that, given the right opportunity, it will prove itself to be a significant natural, eco-friendly solution in a circular economy.

So next time you find yourself frowning at the thought of diving into a cricket taco or adding insect protein powder to your breakfast smoothie, remember this: lobster was once the scavenger of sea, the “food of the poor” and is now a delicacy on our plates, and escargot (those slimy creatures crawling over many five star restaurant tables) is a multi-million dollar industry with the going price for snail caviar at £90 per jar.

Interested in learning more about the future of insect protein? Visit FAO’s Edible Insects: Future prospects for food and feed security.

Related news

Healthy eating guidelines could help EU hit the methane reduction targets

Healthy eating guidelines could help EU hit the methane reduction targets

1 Jul 2022

National healthy eating guidelines calling for 50% cut in red meat and 25% drop in dairy consumption could be key for the European Union (EU) to meet its 2030 methane reduction targets, according to the Changing Markets Foundation.

Read more 
Harnessing oat hulls to make sustainable sweeteners

Harnessing oat hulls to make sustainable sweeteners

30 Jun 2022

Finnish company Fazer is transforming the oat hull side streams from its existing oat mill into the low-calorie sweetener, xylitol.

Read more 
Parmesan partnership to put ‘blockchain ready’ digital chip on all cheese wheels

Parmesan partnership to put ‘blockchain ready’ digital chip on all cheese wheels

29 Jun 2022

A new line of food-safe and secure digital labels on each Parmigiano Reggiano cheese wheel will deliver previously unseen levels of traceability, product control, and quality assurance, says the Consorzio del Parmigiano Reggiano (CFPR).

Read more 
‘Game-changing’ tech such as automation and synthetic biotechnology the future for manufacturing, VTT predicts

‘Game-changing’ tech such as automation and synthetic biotechnology the future for manufacturing, VTT predicts

28 Jun 2022

“Game-changing technologies” such as synthetic biotechnology – combining engineering principles with biology in natural production processes – and more automation could revolutionise European food manufacturing, as well as for a host of other sectors i...

Read more 
World first: Dutch team develop method to extract high-value protein from tomato leaf

World first: Dutch team develop method to extract high-value protein from tomato leaf

27 Jun 2022

Tomato leaves that are currently seen as a major waste stream in horticulture could provide a reliable and sustainable source of rubisco – a widespread plant protein that has potential in food and drink, say researchers.

Read more 
Boom or bust: Are consumers ready for the alternative protein revolution?

Boom or bust: Are consumers ready for the alternative protein revolution?

24 Jun 2022

While excitement over alt-proteins is high among industry and investors, major challenges remain for companies looking to convince consumers to switch to a plant-based ‘meat alternative’.

Read more 
New EU mineral oil limits an ‘important step for food safety’

New EU mineral oil limits an ‘important step for food safety’

23 Jun 2022

The EU’s decision to restrict aromatic mineral oils (MOAH) in food products has been hailed as an important step in food safety and consumer protection but consumer organisation, Foodwatch, is calling for binding regulation to go one step further.

Read more 
NutriScore logo could help young people make healthier food choices – but more awareness is needed

NutriScore logo could help young people make healthier food choices – but more awareness is needed

22 Jun 2022

The European Nutri-Score labelling system can help young people make healthier food choices, according to a Spanish study – but one third still do not know what the label indicates.

Read more 
Mars launches animal-free chocolate with Perfect Day’s whey protein

Mars launches animal-free chocolate with Perfect Day’s whey protein

21 Jun 2022

Mars has launched a vegan chocolate bar made with biotech unicorn Perfect Day’s animal-free whey protein made via precision fermentation.

Read more 
Unilever in $120m biotech venture to scale palm oil alternative

Unilever in $120m biotech venture to scale palm oil alternative

20 Jun 2022

Unilever has teamed up with US biotech company Genomatica to commercialise its palm oil alternative produced via a biotechnology fermentation process.

Read more