Insects in the human food chain: global status and opportunities
Insects are part of the traditional diets of approximately 2 billion people worldwide. Insects can contribute to food security and be a part of the solution to protein shortages, given their high nutritional value, low emissions of greenhouse gases, low requirements for land and water, and the high efficiency at which they can convert feed into food. This article outlines the potential of insects as a food for humans as well as a feedstock for animals and fish. The majority of insects consumed in developing countries today are harvested in nature from wild populations. In Western countries, the disgust factor in considering insects as food, combined currently with their limited availability on the market, and a lack of regulations governing insects as food and feed, are major barriers for their further expansion. However, the biggest opportunity may well lie in the production of insect biomass as feedstock for animals and fish, to partly replace the increasingly expensive protein ingredients of compound feeds in the livestock industries. Considering the immense quantities of insect biomass needed to replace current protein-rich ingredients such as meal from fish and soybeans, automated mass rearing facilities need to be developed. For this to occur, significant technological innovations, changes in consumer food preferences, insect-encompassing food and feed legislation, and progress towards more sustainable food production systems are needed. The close collaboration of government, food and feed industry, media, chefs, and academia will be essential for success.
Conference report: Insects to Feed the World