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10 reasons why we should eat insects

Crobar Cricket Flour - Featured Image

1. Nutrition & Health

One of the most convincing reasons to eat insects, is from a health point of view. Insects generally are very high in protein, beneficial fats, vitamins, minerals and all essential amino acids.

Vitamin B12 for example is not available from plant sources, and many vegetarians and vegans are deficient in this. Insects are a great source of Vitamin B12. Nuts and pulses, though very healthy in other nutrients, lack this essential vitamin.

Flowers

The combination of unsaturated omega- 3 and omega- 6 fatty acids is also high and comparable to that found in fish, which is higher than in pork and cattle.

As most insects are eaten whole, unlike conventional meat, the entire exoskeleton, muscle tissues and vital organs are consumed. This is part of the reason for the high micro- nutritional value of insects.

2. Less land requirements

Farming insects requires less land than farming traditional livestock. In fact, insects even like to be confined to small spaces, which can be seen in the way the cluster into certain patterns. Furthermore they can be stacked vertically unlike bigger animals.

If you compare the weight of protein produced with other livestock, insects require 10 times less space. Traditional livestock is presently occupying two thirds of the worlds’ land masses, and are the cause of some of our biggest environmental challenges. Climate change, over- fishing, pollution caused by fertilizing as well as pesticide use, are all reasons why the environment is being maxed out and something needs to change. This itself is one of the major reasons to eat insects.

3. Less CO2 and ammonia emissions

Insects produce significantly less CO2 and ammonia emissions than cattle, pork and chicken. The reason for this is the much shorter lifespan of insects, which means less resources are required. In the case of crickets, they are fully grown at about 8 weeks. Compare that with cows, which are considered adults at about 2 years of age.

Animal Feed needed to produce 1lb of Protein

4. Quicker protein conversion

Insects are furthermore cold- blooded, meaning increased efficiency at converting food into protein. To produce the same amount of protein, crickets need 12 times less food than cattle, and only half the amount than pork and chicken.

5. Ethical considerations

Insects are further down the food chain than other livestock, and don’t have many animal welfare issues associated with them. This could potentially be among the important reasons to eat insects for vegans and vegetarians, especially as they are high in Vitamin B12, which is not obtainable from plants.

6. Small risk of zoonotic infections

Diseases like foot and mouth disease, H5N1, avian influenza and bovine spongiform are less likely to be transmitted from insects to humans, because insects taxonomically are much more different than bigger animals. In recent years we have seen a rapid increase in these infections, likely caused by climate change as well as the intensification of animal production. However, more research is needed in this area.

7. Less feed and water requirements

Insects require less feed than other livestock, and about 80% of a cricket is digestible. This is most likely due to the fact that insects are cold- blooded and therefore don’t need food to stay warm. Insects also require significantly less water compared to cattle, pork and chicken.

Efficiencies of Production of Conventional Meat and Crickets

8. Insects can live off organic waste products

Because insects are easy to please gastronomically, they can live off organic side streams like manure and compost. This in turn decreases environmental impact and adds value to waste products.

Insects could be fed biowaste, and in turn processed and fed to larger animals, which again could be sold to the consumer. Insects such as the black soldier fly, the common housefly and the yellow mealworm, are extremely efficient at converting organic waste, and estimations say that they could convert 1.3 billion tonnes of biowaste per year. Unfortunately this process is not yet allowed due to present and outdated food & feed legislation, however it could become one of the powerful reasons to eat insects.

Use of Insects in the Animal Feed Chain

9. Rearing insects is easy and cost- efficient

Farming insects is easy to learn and doesn’t require a lot of training or resources. Because the life- span of an insect is much shorter than traditional livestock, coupled with the fact that insects reproduce extremely quickly, this also results in quicker economical benefits.

10. No use of antibiotics, pesticides, GMO or hormones

Insects do not require antibiotics, the use of which especially in the poultry industry has led to a lot of debate. Excessive use of antibiotics can lead to bacteria, which become resistant, and in turn become a worrying danger to humans.

The use of pesticides is also not necessary, which logically is better for the environment and human health, as well as being more economical.

The same can be said for GMO and artificial hormones, all of which become superfluous when farming insects.

http://gathrfoods.com/

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Funding call for research proposals

Strathclyde University - Featured Image

Strathclyde University have issued a Funding call.

If you are a business or researcher with a great idea for sustainable feeds for finfish, this could be your moment.

They are looking for expressions of interest (EOI) in sustainable feed projects. They should focus on one of the following areas:

  • health effects of feeding, including gut microbiome, changes in diet and susceptibility to disease
  • sources of EPA/DHA
  • alternative protein sources, locally sourced, low environmental impact.
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FSA Novel Foods Workshop

Food Standards Agency - Featured Image

Today I attended the FSA workshop on Novel Foods Regulations, with Neil Whippey of Eat Grub.  It was a really useful and informative although we came away with some challenges for the fledgling UK insects for food sector (insects for feed was not in scope).

Full report will follow as an in-depth article for Woven members (see membership offer coming out soon).

A few highlights:

  • There is a £4,000 fee for applying for Novel Food approval and you have to submit one for each individual product that has a distinct risk profile
  • There is scope to secure a blanket approval relating to an ingredient but this would potentially need to be very tightly defined  – this could mean multiple companies securing this together, or Woven acting on their behalf, to share the costs
  • You can trade now and manufacture, market and sell products with whole insect material.  From January 2018 when the new regulations come in you will only be able to continue if you are in the process of working through a Novel Foods application – but this process can take up to 18m and you can trade throughout.
  • The potential for insect materials in foods to cause allergic reactions needs research and careful thought.  Woven will seek to work with its members and the FSA to ensure that the right balance is struck between risks and benefits and we have secured some champions within the FSA and the committee that advises them, with whom we will maintain a positive relationship.

So, definitely a worthwhile event and further signs that Woven Network is going to be critical if this sector is to succeed in the UK.

Nick

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Form to complete for importing insect material

Animal and Plant Health Agency - Featured Image

If you want to import cricket flour into the UK, this is the form you have to fill out:

Import license form

There are lots of questions that are irrelevant, so just write N/A. It takes 15 days to be granted, and they will get back to you if they require more information.

Thanks to Christine for flagging this.

Image Credits: Animal & Plant Health Agency