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Insects as Food

Considering increasing global population and increasing demand for proteins, the current food production system cannot be sufficient to meet this demand. And so, emerging protein sources need to be considered and evaluated. Carlos Álvarez García Food Researcher tells of the promise of edible insects

Edible Insects

Edible insects are a promising approach that will be able to provide high quality proteins while making better use of the available resources.  In this sense, our objective as researchers is to optimise the breeding, rearing and processing practices to obtain a protein that can be integrated in the food chain. We already know that insect proteins contain all the essential amino acids, and that protein content is similar to that found in beef, pork or poultry. And we also know, that the amount of energy and feed required to rear insects is more efficient than for beef or pork. Therefore, insects are an excellent complementary source of animal-origin proteins.

Obviously, even though insects are consumed by more than 2 billion people at global scale, the acceptance for this type of products in western cultures is very low.  In this regard, we are working along with consumers to develop ways to incorporate insect-based products into our diets. Strategies are based in formulating insect proteins into products familiar to consumers, and avoid the use of whole insects.

From a legal point of view, insects are considered  as ‘Novel Food’ in Europe; and, at the moment only three species (locust, crickets and mealworms) have been approved to be commercialised in specific countries (the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland or Belgium). As with any other livestock, there are animal health regulations, animal feed rules and safety checks.

Teagasc is involved in the Interreg funded project “Valusect”. In this project, we are aiming to use food co-products and other low value raw materials to feed edible insects, that later will be processed and incorporated in several types of products. We will be looking at nutritional value, functionality and consumers’ acceptance of new products. In addition, we will pay attention to the sustainability of the process, the residues generated, and so on. Finally, we will provide support to agro-food business operators interested in using insects or already operating in this area.

To find out more about the Insects as Food you can listen to Carlos being interviewed (10.14 mins in) on a special episode of the Research Field Podcast.  Listen to the Research Field Podcast Special Episode: Science Week 2020 here https://teagasc.ie/publications/tresearch/the-research-field/

Teagasc held a series of exciting virtual events for Science Week (November 8-15) as part of ‘The Festival of Farming and Food – SFI Science Week at Teagasc’. The core theme for Science Week 2020 is ‘Science Week - Choosing our Future’ focusing on how science can improve our lives in the future, and in the present. This will explore how science can help us to make positive choices that will impact the environment, our health, and our quality of life. Changes based in scientific evidence that we make today can hugely improve our future life, but also right now. Watch the events back here.

We’d love to hear from you. Be part of The Festival of Farming and Food journey on Social Media: @Teagasc @ScienceWeek #FestFarmFood #BelieveInScience #ScienceWeek