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Just how close are we to incorporating insects into our diet?

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Edible insects could be the future of sustainable protein, a new report released by the University of Leeds has revealed

However, there were a number of issues raised that may prohibit this cuisine becoming the norm too soon.

Food preparation using cricket garnish and ground cricket

Image Courtesy of Guiomar Melgar-Lalanne and Alan-Javier Hernández-Álvarez

One thing is for sure: mass farming and production of meat as it is currently is unsustainable and cannot continue if we hope to slow climate change. One solution that many people have been talking about for a while is the farming and consumption of insects. 

Last year, Sainsbury's introduced insects as a snack into their storesFor many, the idea of eating insects is enough to make their stomach churn, but why are scientists so keen on the idea?

Chorizo sausage contain ground insects for additional protein

'Chorizo sausage contain ground insects for additional protein'. Image Courtesy of Guiomar Melgar-Lalanne and Alan-Javier Hernández-Álvarez 

Dr Alan-Javier Hernández-Álvarez, one of authors of the study, says: “Edible insects are fascinating. Although humans have eaten insects throughout history, and approximately two billion people around the globe regularly eat them today, research on the subject is relatively new.

“The ‘ick factor’ remains one of the biggest barriers to edible insects becoming the norm. Eating behaviour is shaped largely during early childhood and in Western countries eating insects, especially in whole and recognisable forms, remains something seen mostly on TV shows."

The report goes on to explain how the consumption of insects across the globe could be halted by a misconception or certain snobbery. It explained how  'in the Western World, people tend to associate insects with plagues and health risks, (whilst) in tropical countries, they are part of culinary traditions, mostly in rural areas'.

Dr Hernández-Álvarez speaks about the possibility of introducing insect powders: “In some European countries consumers, particularly young adults, have shown interest in new food products that use insects in un-recognisable form, such as flour or powder used in cookies or energy drinks. Developing efficient large-scale processing technologies that can develop insects powders could go a long way to helping introduce insects as a common source of protein and nutrients.”

Eating Bugs - Thailand

Image Credit: Alex Berger via Flickr

Dr Guiomar Melgar-Lalanne, an additional author of the study said, “Promoting insects as an environmentally sustainable protein source appeals to the current attitudes in the younger generation. Another successful strategy involves serving insects as snacks between meals, which would increase inclusion of insects in daily diets. These types of snacks are increasing in popularity in the global market.

“But if edible insects are to become a common food source current farming techniques and technologies could struggle with the demand and need to be expanded.”

The report also details how there would be "a need to make the technological leap from wild harvesting to indoor farming. In this sense, traditional indigenous knowledge associated with wild harvesting and local insect consumption can complement the scientific knowledge required to boost the supply of insects through large-scale farming."

Although insect farming may pose an issue globally, it is certain that we will see far more of the these critters appearing in our food in the not-too-distant future.

Lead Image Credit: Alex Berger via Flickr




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