A Plentiful Source of Protein: Insects

By Elizabeth Rudd, FutureNous

Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet, yet as the global population continues to increase past 7 billion inhabitants, the pressure increases for reliable sources. Insects may provide a solution.

What is changing?

The need for the world’s population to have access to healthy diets with protein and nutrients is leading the search for alternatives to meat. With the UN predicting global population will peak at 9 billion the search for reliable food sources is underway. (See previous alert: Food revolution) Protein is essential and traditional meat production is resource intensive and places further stress on already scarce agricultural resources leading many to look for alternatives including synthetic or artificial meats (see previous trend alert) and insects.

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture organisation (FAO) recently published a 200+ page report how diets could be supplemented with insects. At least 2 billion people currently consume insects as part of their traditional diet. Insects are an excellent source of nutrients, protein, fat and fibre and are much less resource intensive to produce; on average insects use 2 kilograms (kg) of feed to produce 1 kg of insects, compared to 8 kg of feed for one 1 kg of meat.

There are several challenges with insects as a reliable food source including cultivation and overcoming the “yuck” factor present in many cultures.

The 2013 Hult Prize, which focuses on urban food security, received several entries from groups proposing food sources from insects. The winner, announced in September 2013, will receive $1 million in funding for their entry.

A student group from McGill University in Montreal, one of five finalists groups for the Hult Prize, has proposed a distributed production model for crickets and flour production. In their plan, cricket-producing kits are distributed throughout the world’s slums both as a way for families to produce crickets for their own consumption but also as a way to generate additional income from any surplus supply. The surplus supply would be sold to the local mill to produce cricket flour which can be added to other types of flour or food products to provide a nutritional boost of much needed protein and iron.

There are other start-ups focused on producing product products using insects. Exo is a company producing protein bars filled with cricket flour, dates, raw cocoa, almond butter and coconut. Each bar contains approximately 25 crickets worth of cricket flour, and early reports are people cannot “taste” the crickets. The recipe for the bars was developed by a renowned chef from the UK. Other products including granola bars and protein shakes are likely to follow. Exo is marketed to western consumers, who may have an aversion to eating insects. The company is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.

Other companies focused on insects as a nutrious food source have started up in the UK, USA and Scandinavia and many expensive restaurants have begun adding insects to their menus.

Why is this important?

Food scarcity, food insecurity, and poor diets are related to a variety of social, economic and health issues.

As the world’s standard of living improves more pressure is placed on the global food supply to provide high-protein, healthy food. The world cannot meet this demand through traditional production of meat sources, it is simply too resource intensive. Artificial methods may provide some alternatives, but using a natural source such as insects, which is both abundant and efficient to produce high protein food may provide the best alternative.

Developing reliable, commercial quantities of insects for food use is an opportunity for entrepreneurs. For local communities it could develop into a source of income. Food manufacturers have the opportunity to develop innovative products and develop new markets. The restaurant industry, which has shown interest in developing dishes with insects, helps to gauge consumer tastes.

– See more at: http://www.shapingtomorrow.com/trends.cfm?output=1&id=22877


One thought on “A Plentiful Source of Protein: Insects

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