Edible insectsEdible insects may be the solution to alleviating food insecurity. With rising global rates of hunger and a growing population, the world needs affordable, sustainable and accessible food sources. Traditional livestock requires acres of land, not to mention massive quantities of crops for feed and a lot of water too. Overall, livestock does not present a sustainable food source for the future. Edible insects, however, are increasing in popularity as research reveals a myriad of benefits that make edible insects a possible solution to reducing food insecurity across the world.

Poverty and Food Shortages

According to a U.N. report, in 2020, “between 720 and 811 million people in the world” suffered from hunger. Additionally, 2.37 billion people worldwide did not have sufficient access to adequate food. Both of these statistics saw an increase in the millions in comparison to pre-pandemic numbers.

Soaring food prices are making it even more challenging for those with low incomes to afford food. According to “rapid phone surveys done by the World Bank,” 48 nations across the world report “a significant amount of people” experiencing food shortages and resorting to minimizing food consumption due to financial struggles. Food shortages greatly affect the overall health and nutrition of people.

Children are particularly susceptible to the impacts of inadequate nutritious food as malnutrition can lead to detrimental, lifelong consequences for children. Because nutritious food generally costs more, a nutritious meal is out of reach for many impoverished people, especially during COVID-19.

Current Food Industry

By 2050, the expected global population will increase to roughly nine billion people. To keep up with the food demands of a growing population, “global agriculture production” needs to increase by 60-70%. However, the agricultural sectors of the world experience frequent threats from droughts, natural disasters, soil degradation and more.

About 80% of global farmland is used for feeding and raising livestock. A large proportion of arable land used for crops go toward animal feed. Moreover, greater land use for livestock leads to more deforestation. The meat industry is one of the largest industries in the world. Per capita, meat consumption has more than doubled since 1961. Unfortunately, livestock production is an unsustainable practice resulting in water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.

Livestock production contributes to 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the FAO. More than 70 billion animals are slaughtered each year, requiring acres of land and tons of feed. In developing countries especially, many people simply cannot afford the high cost of a nutritious diet, bringing about an increasing need for affordable and sustainable food sources.

The Rise of the Edible Insect Market

Insects are raised in warehouses, utilizing less farmland and feed. Furthermore, insects are low-cost and are easily accessible. Cultures around the world have consumed edible insects for hundreds of years yet many people express distaste in welcoming insects into their diets. But slowly, as people realize the many benefits of edible insects, more people are open to insects as a food source. Insects could be a solution to the issues surrounding poverty, food insecurity and environmental impact. The edible insect market is expected to reach $4.63 billion by 2027, making it a viable business venture as well.

The Specific Benefits of Edible Insects

  • Insects produce significantly fewer gases that pollute the air and water. One study found that crickets release “80% less methane than cows and 8-12 times less ammonia than pigs.”
  • Insects require less land, water and feed than the world’s typical livestock.
  • “Insects are 12-25 more efficient at converting energy into protein than animals.”
  • If the world replaces half of all meat consumption with insects, farmland usage would be cut by roughly 33% or slightly more than 4,000 acres.
  • Insects contain 60% protein, providing more protein than chicken and beef. Insects also contain more vitamins and minerals than beef, including iron, zinc and magnesium. In areas facing famine or food shortages, powdered crickets or mealworms provide nutrition and prevent disease.
  • Insects can help increase food crop production by reducing the need for crops as livestock feed since insects can serve as livestock feed. Insects can also survive on leftover food and agriculture scraps.
  • Insect excrement can be used as fertilizer.

Looking Forward

An important aspect of raising edible insects is finding a species that is suited for the region and is socially acceptable, especially in areas of poverty. The insect must be affordable enough for people of different economic backgrounds to purchase. Edible insects are packed with nutrients and present a potential solution to many environmental and social challenges. Overall, insects hold great value in addressing rising levels of global food insecurity.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: Flickr

End World HungerResearchers in Finland have introduced their hopeful and ongoing work to improve life by creating food out of electricity — a development that could end world hunger. Researchers created a protein out of an electric shock and a few ingredients. The results of this experiment may be successful in helping to feed a large amount of people in regions where food sources are threatened by climate change or other conflicts. It could also perhaps introduce a food technology that could change the food and agricultural industry.

The protein was created as a Food from Electricity Project with the Lappeenranta University of Technology and the Technical Research Centre of Finland. The protein is a single-cell protein large enough for a dinner meal. The protein includes electricity, water, carbon dioxide and microbes. The ingredients go through a system powered by renewable energy and then researchers enhance an electric shock into the ingredients, creating a result of 50 percent protein, 25 percent carbohydrates and 25 percent fat and nucleic acid. This concept has introduced a new, cheaper way to address and end world hunger.

About 800 million people suffer from malnourishment and about 20 million people are undergoing famine in their countries. So far, the concept has allowed the creation of one gram of protein in about two weeks with the nutrition of basic food. Researchers predict that there will be a full effect of the electric protein in about a decade, which allows for a wider use of the protein. For now, researchers are introducing this hopeful initiative, and will continue developing the concept.

Electric food has life-changing potential. This process could not only provide a protein to resolve the hunger crisis, but it could also develop nutritious food that furthers solving and ending world hunger.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr

Entomophagy, or the practice of eating insects, could fight world hunger and global warming. A 200-page report, released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at the organization’s Rome headquarters, is calling for restaurants, chefs, and food writers to promote eating insects.

According to the FAO, insects provide high-quality protein and nutrients compared to meat and fish. They can also be an important food supplement for undernourished children,  reproduce quickly, and leave a low environment footprint. Insects are high in protein, and can also be rich in copper, iron, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Furthermore, insects are four times more efficient in turning feed mass into edible meat, which suggests that food could be produced more cheaply and with fewer emissions.

The long history of entomophagy starts with grasshoppers served “toasted in a little oil with garlic, lemon and salt” on the streets of Oaxaca, Mexico and fly eggs called “Mexican caviar” that Montezuma devoured. Currently, two billion people worldwide indulge in the delicacy. However, consumer digestion will remain an issue when integrating insects into the Western diet. While ingesting insects outright makes many Westerners squeamish, reports by the FDA suggest that insect fragments can already be found several food products such as wheat and tomato juice but is safe to eat on a small scale.

Though this new protein may not find it’s way onto dinner plates in the near future, eating insects could fight would hunger and is an firm step forward in maintaining food security world wide.

– Kira Maixner

Source: The Telegraph