Potential of insects as food and feed in assuring food security
Arnold van Huis, Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
With a growing world population and increasingly demanding consumers, can we still produce sufficient animal protein in the future, considering that 70% of all agricultural land is already used for livestock? Urgently we need to identify alternative protein sources, and insects have great potential in contributing to global food security. More than 1900 species of insects are eaten worldwide, mainly in tropical countries. There are a number of advantages of using insects as protein source above livestock products, among which: 1) insect are cold blooded, and convert feed much more efficiently into edible product; 2) they emit less greenhouse gases and ammonia than conventional livestock; 3) Life Cycle Analysis shows that the production of one kg of protein from mealworms requires less land area. Nutritionally, edible insects constitute high quality food for humans, and feed for livestock, poultry and fish. Feed ingredients such as fishmeal, soymeal and grains become increasingly expensive, but they can easily be substituted by insect meal. Larvae and pupae of Black Soldier Flies, House flies and Yellow mealworms are good candidates while at the same time these insects can transform organic waste into high quality protein products. Bio-regeneration of waste would solve an environmental problem considering that globally one third of our food (1.3 billion tons a year) is not used. In tropical countries most insects are collected from nature, and emphasis should be on sustainable harvesting practices. However, to satisfy demands worldwide, insects need to be farmed. This can be done as a cottage industry for domestic use and local markets, but this will not be enough, in particular when the feed industry want to change their current protein ingredients with insect meal. Then insects need to be produced in large-scale automated mass-rearing facilities that produce a stable, reliable, and safe product. Until recently, insects were not considered as feed or food in the western world, and therefore, a legislative framework is lacking. Consumer acceptability has to do with perceived environment benefits, low price and development of gastronomically interesting products. Insects can become an important new food and feed item both in tropical and western countries, but requires close collaboration between public and private partners and R&D organizations. This would allow the emergence of a new food/feed chain and a new sector of insects as food and feed.