Life & Style | Food

Bugs are food of the future, says United Nations

Food and Agriculture Organisation says consumer disgust remains largest barrier

  • AFP
  • Published: 18:42 May 13, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AP
  • This file photo provided by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows insects for sale at a market in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Rome: Beetles, caterpillars and wasps could supplement diets around the world as an environmentally friendly food source if only Western consumers could get over their ‘disgust’, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Monday.

“The main message is really: ‘Eat insects’”, Eva Mueller, director of forest economics at the FAO, told a press conference in Rome. “Insects are abundant and they are a valuable source of protein and minerals.

“Two billion people — a third of the world’s population — are already eating insects because they are delicious and nutritious.”

Also speaking at the press conference was Gabon’s forestry minister, Gabriel Tchango, who said: “Insect consumption is part of our daily life.”

He said some insects — like beetle larvae and grilled termites — were considered delicacies.

“Insects contribute about 10 per cent of animal protein consumed by the population,” he said.

The report said insect farming was “one of the many ways to address food and feed insecurity”.

“Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly, and they have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint,” said the report, co-authored by the FAO and Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

But the authors admitted that “consumer disgust remains one of the largest barriers to the adoption of insects as viable sources of protein in many Western countries”.

Mueller said that brands such as yoghurt maker Danone and Italian alcoholic drinks maker Campari used dye from insects to colour their products.

It suggested that the food industry could help in “raising the status of insects” by including them in recipes and putting them on restaurant menus.

“Beetles, grasshoppers and other insects... are now showing up though on the menus of some restaurants in some European capitals,” said Mueller, as she showed photo slides of crickets being used as decoration on top of high-end restaurant desserts.

The report also called for wider use of insects as feed for livestock, saying that poor regulation and under-investment currently meant it “cannot compete” with traditional sources of feed.

“The use of insects on a large scale as a feed ingredient is technically feasible, and established companies in various parts of the world are already leading the way,” it added, highlighting in particular producers in China, South Africa, Spain and the United States.

“Insects can supplement traditional feed sources such as soy, maize, grains and fishmeal,” it said, adding that the ones with most potential were larvae of the black soldier fly, the common housefly and the yellow mealworm.

The report also said the insects most commonly consumed by humans are beetles (31 per cent), caterpillars (18 per cent) and bees, wasps and ants (14 per cent), followed by grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (13 per cent).

The report said a total of 1,900 species of insects are consumed around the world, adding that trade in insects was thriving in cities such as Bangkok and Kinshasa and that a similar culture of insect consumption — entomophagy — should be established elsewhere, stressing that it was often cheaper to farm insects.

While beef has an iron content of 6.0 milligrams per 100 grams of dry weight, the iron content of locusts varies between 8.0 and and 20 milligrams per 100 grams, the report said.

It also said that insects require just two kilograms of feed to produce one kilogram of insect meat compared to a ratio of 8-to-1 for beef.

The report concluded: “History has shown that dietary patterns can change quickly, particularly in a globalised world. The rapid acceptance of raw fish in the form of sushi is a good example.”

“Not everybody is ready to pop a bug in their mouth,” Mueller said. “It will probably take a while. But some people are already doing it.”

Comments (12)

  1. Added 14:28 May 14, 2013

    I first "truly" knew that insects contain high level of protein in the movie Lion King when Timone tells Pumba about it. The second time I heard that was in "Man vs Wild" series when Bear Grylls said the same thing. To be frank, it is "yucky" if I have to eat them raw. I have known about this bug-eating many years ago, but it has never come to my food list ever. As a person who loves to cook, I never imagine having bugs on my pan so far, but as a foodie I definitely would give it a try.

    Melyawaty, Kabul, Afghanistan

  2. Added 14:26 May 14, 2013

    Allah has made this world for Humans & everything in is inter connected. But there is proper ways in which it needs to be consumed for example chickens eat insects & human eats chicken, same way fish eat other species or forms of insects & human eats fish. Like wise sheep or cow eats leaves or grass it comes along with insects this is grown with fertilizers (with H.waste or animals waste) and humans eat sheep. Conclusion apart from humans everything has its own role to form as a finished product for humans & If the insects are eaten directly by Humans means we will be breaking the cycle of the nature.

    Khalid, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 13:26 May 14, 2013

    How about cockroaches and bedbugs? Are they good for health also? In that case let us start squashing cockroaches and bedbugs and have them for dinner before going to sleep.

    nabeel, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 13:26 May 14, 2013

    What? eat insects? I dont think Muslims are going to even think about it. People nowadays eat everything, you cannot just prefer something to eat only if its tasty or has minerals in it. I dont agree, new diets then leads new diseases. Come on keep the line of difference between humans and animals!!

    Mohammad, sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 12:12 May 14, 2013

    Please tell me the taste of cocroaches and lizards. I think its not tasty.

    Ned, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 12:07 May 14, 2013

    1/3rd of world already has insects on their menu. If rearche has proven it's safe for humans, then what is the problem in eating them? Eating unhealthy snacks, getting no exercise and being obese should be our greatest worry. The choice is ours, don't like it, don't have.

    R Jose, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 12:03 May 14, 2013

    Coming years world countries are going to face accute shortage of food grains. High range of industrialization paved the way for shortage of agriculture produce. People have to find out other options for having their daily feed. Let us consider the consumption of bugs as food.

    Abdullah Vattipparambil, Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 11:52 May 14, 2013

    Thousand of diseases are coming from those insects, some of them are even poisonous and can cause allergies, is disgusting. The UN should specify which ones are consumable or not. I can't imagine eating a blood sucker like a bed bug.

    manitou, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 11:50 May 14, 2013

    Gosh, yuck, I felt like throwing up just reading about this. I really hope I don't have to see such days ever.

    Zainab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 11:39 May 14, 2013

    It gives me a shiver even thinking about it, forget about eating insects. It is better to live on fruits and vegetables rather than on insects and termites. But idea of making use of them as a feed ingredient for livestocks is good.

    Jamsheed, dubai, United Arab Emirates

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