The crude protein content in several edible insect species is similar to that in conventional meat products according to a new study from Wageningen University, which adds to a mounting body of research on the potential of insect protein.
The researchers examined the protein composition of five different insect species, including mealworms, beetles, crickets and cockroaches, and found their essential amino acid content was higher than the daily protein requirement of an adult. Crude protein content ranged from 19-22%, compared to 20-24% in red meat.
The study’s authors also found that protein extracts could form gels - potentially useful for processing insect proteins into food products like sausages and patties, in a similar way to transforming soy proteins into meat alternatives.
“In conclusion, the insect species studied have potential to be used in foods due to: 1) absolute protein levels; 2) protein quality; 3) ability to form gels,” the researchers wrote.
Interest in insects as a potential environmentally friendly protein source has gained traction in recent years, although challenges remain in terms of microbial safety, processing technologies and sanitation. In addition, although the FAO estimates that about two billion people regularly eat insects, it also recognises that consumer acceptance may be one of the biggest challenges to commercialising insects for food in many parts of the world.
Source: Food Chemistry
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.05.115, online ahead of print
“Extraction and characterization of protein fractions from five insect species”
Authors: Liya Yi, Catriona M. M. Lakemond, Leonard M. C. Sagis, Verena Eisner-Schadler, Arnold Van Huis, Martinus A. J. S. van Boekel.