The increasing demand for dietary protein and lack of farmland to raise more livestock in the future could make insects an attractive alternative to traditional protein sources, says a study.
"We have seven billion people now and that is projected to be nine billion in 2050. We are already using a third of the land on the Earth for raising livestock, and the demand for protein, especially animal protein, is growing even faster than the population," said Aaron Dossey, founder of All Things Bugs LLC, a US-based company that manufactures and sells cricket powder.
"I think insects are a very nutritional alternative," Dossey said at a symposium at 'IFT15: Where Science Feeds Innovation' hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in Chicago.
All Things Bugs, which will produce about 25,000 pounds of cricket powder this year, has received research grants for several projects related to using insects as food, including how it can alleviate childhood malnutrition.
He cited several properties that make insects a valuable food source.
They use less land, water, feed, energy and other resources than livestock. Insects create fewer greenhouse gases and are not contaminated with pesticides. They also do not have any hormones in their bodies.
Moreover, they reproduce quickly whereby they can replace depleted resources, Dossey said.
There are millions of insect species, so it is easy to find a match to a location's need, he said.
They have protein and Omega 3s, a class of essential fatty acids that help lower cholesterol, Dossey said.
However, George Ziobro of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, cautioned that it would not be simple to add insects to the typical diet.
He cited the FDA's requirements that all food be clean, manufactured under sanitary conditions and properly labelled.
"We all eat insects or insect parts. In most cases, it is accidentally," Ziobro said.
"The FDA restricts the sale of insect-infested or insect-damaged foods. The majority of people do not want to see part of their breakfast walk off the plate," Ziobro said.