The Potential for Eating Insects

insect, bugs, farm, insect farm

Most people in western countries shudder at the thought of eating an insect, this author included. However, in some developing countries eating insects is part of the traditional cuisine of at least two billion people worldwide. Raising insects for food and feed has a huge potential, according to a new report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Forestry Department.

Insects are plentiful in this world. In fact, insects account for more than half of all living organisms classified so far. There are about one million known insect species. More than 1,900 insect species have reportedly been used as food. Insects play an important role for humanity. Some are pollinators, while others improve soil fertility, or act as a natural bio-control for harmful insect species. We have honey and silk because of insects.

There are environmental benefits to raising insects for food and feed. For example, crickets need only two kilograms of feed for every one kilogram of body weight. Because they are cold-blooded, they don’t use energy from feed to maintain body temperature. Insects can be raised on organic side-streams, such as human and animal waste, and require significantly less land and water than cattle. They emit fewer greenhouse gases and less ammonia than cattle or pigs. Insects can be used to break down waste, which helps in the composting processes that brings nutrients back into the soil.

Insects are a nutritious and healthy food source containing protein, vitamin fiber and mineral content. For example, the composition of unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids in mealworms compares to that in fish, and is higher than in cattle and pigs. The protein, vitamin and mineral content of mealworms is also similar to fish and meat.

"We are not saying that people should be eating bugs," said Eva Muller, Director of FAO’s Forest Economic Policy and Products Division, who co-authored the report. "We are saying that insects are just one resource provided by forests, and insects are pretty much untapped for their potential for food, and especially for feed," Muller added.

The attitude most of us have toward eating insects "has resulted in the neglect of insects in agricultural research," the report states. Even within countries where eating insects is part of the traditional cuisine, farming insects is relatively new. Paul Vantomme, another co-author of the report, says that the "private sector is ready to invest in insect farming." He points out that there are "huge opportunities before us," when it comes to insect farming.

Photo Credit: Paulo Brandao

By Gina-Marie Cheeseman| May 23, 2013
Categories:  Live
Keywords:  Eco LivingLive

About the Author

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer armed with a passion for healthy living and a degree in journalism. Hailing from the dry, sunny Central San Joaquin Valley, she hasn't let the heat fry her brain!

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