Last year, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its assessment of insects as food, concluding that despite their potential benefits to health, the environment and livelihoods around the world, Westerners’ ‘disgust factor’ was a major barrier to more widespread acceptance.
However, with 2bn people already regularly eating insects, Euromonitor describes them as a potential answer to food security concerns.
The market research organisation forecasts that consumer spending on meat will increase by 88% in emerging and developing countries up to 2030 – while it could increase by more than 25% in developed economies. Insects could be “a healthier alternative to fattier meat”, it said, while also being better for the environment and low-cost to farm.
What about the ‘disgust factor’?
“The most obvious challenge to insects becoming a viable food source for the future is that negative attitudes in Western cultures towards insects as food need to change,” said Media Eghbal, head of countries’ analysis at Euromonitor International in a company blog.
She added that raising insects for animal feed may be more feasible than successfully introducing insect-containing foods to the market, although EU legislation would still need to be revised to allow the use of insects in feed.
“Insects could solve not just food security issues but also help with global emission reduction targets and to offset food price volatility during global shocks, which always impact the poorest the hardest as they spend the majority of their income on food as an essential item,” she wrote. “However, introducing insects to squeamish Western palates is likely to remain a challenge.”
For human consumption, insects are governed by novel food regulation in Europe, but researchers have suggested that insects are unlikely to require pre-market safety assessment, as many non-EU countries have already demonstrated a history of safe use.
For several years European researchers have been exploring the potential for insect protein as a way to meet increasing global demand for protein-rich foods, as insects use far less land than traditional meat or vegetable protein production, produce less waste and emissions, and are even capable of using waste as feed.