Switching to insect protein provides added nutrients, with benefits such as being a superfood and its sustainable impact on the environment. Could we see more people eating insects as part of their new diet plan?
Dror Tamir, CEO of Hargol, a food tech firm explains the benefits these insects have.
Grasshoppers taste like pecan, mushrooms, coffee and chocolate
But with our range of food we can add in different flavours… the gummies come in orange and strawberry flavours.
What’s not to like or enjoy? Dror first became interested in the idea of grasshoppers in his early years and was influenced by his grandmother.
I learned about the 1950’s, when Israel suffered from both food insecurity as well as locust swarms flying in from Africa and destroying the crops.
While most kibbutz members ran to the fields to scare the grasshoppers away, the Yemenite and Moroccan Jewish members collected tons of them to eat. That’s when I learned that grasshoppers are food for billions around the globe.
The insects have been widely accepted by communities across Africa, Asia, Central American, and the Middle East, but for many people in Europe and North American, it’s still making its mark. My Tamir hopes to diversify his range of insect-based products, he’s already introduced sweets, energy bars, burgers and falafel balls.
By 2050, it is expected the world population will reach 9.8 billion, there may be no choice in the matter to feed so many people. With this increase, traditional farming will not be able to catch up. This is where switching to insect protein will be the alternative option and will prove to be better for the environment than rearing cows, sheep, and other mammals.
“Protein is essential in our diets,” says Prof Robin May, chief scientific advisor to the UK’s Food Standards Agency. “But often some of our most protein-rich foods come with significant environmental or ethical footprints – meat or dairy products, for instance.
Some insect proteins, such as ground crickets or freeze-dried mealworms, are cheap, easy to farm, low fat, and have a lower environmental impact than meat.
And sometimes they may even provide a valuable ‘recycling’ service, by consuming waste products as their primary feedstuff, so the potential advantages to society are significant.
However, Prof May also warns of the dangers of eating insects. He says:
The way that insects are farmed and the relatively short time in which they have been used as agricultural animals means that we know far less about insect-derived foods than we do for, say, beef, he says
A key question at this stage, he adds, is whether some insect protein may prove to be allergenic or to have a significant impact on the human microbiome – the bacteria and other microbes that live inside our bodies.
Mr Tamir is strongly convinced that the environmental and health benefits outweigh the concerns and believes in the effectiveness of insects as part of the diet.
In the UK, you can buy insect protein from online retailers such as EatGrub and Horizon Insects. In the EU, both the migratory locust and yellow mealworms, the larva of a beetle, were deemed fit for human consumption this year.
Ynsect, a french firm makes a range of protein powder made from mealworms that are already found in some brands of energy bars, burgers and pasta.
Chief Executive Antoine Hubert says the protein is “completely natural” and “a less processed alternative” to many mammal-based meats, such as sausages, hams and bread chicken products. A recent study from Maastricht University shows that insect protein is as beneficial as milk protein.
Mr. Hubert says:
Both have the same performance on digestion, absorption and on the ability to stimulate muscle production.
The communications manager at the British Nutrition Foundation, Bridget Benelam says more research is still needed in this area. She stands by Prof May’s concerns about potential allergies, comparing this to people who are allergic to shellfish. She identifies that some unanswered questions remain around the safety of consuming some types of insect, which could potentially transfer toxins or pesticides to humans.
These are some of the barriers that need to be overcome if eating insects is to become truly mainstream.
Mr Tamir admits that “the yuck factor” is one of his industry’s most important challenges. Attracting and convincing an audience that would rather be far away from insects as possible, let alone putting it in their mouths. He is convinced eating insects will be the new norm just like eating raw fish in sushi.
Has this convinced you to give insects a try? Let us know in the comments below.