The insect industry has been experiencing a boom over the past few years. The growth of insects as food for human consumption has been largely due to an increase in consumer understanding of the sustainability issues surrounding eating meat - an awareness of the projected global population growth and the accompanying ‘protein gap’. It is widely reported that “over 2 billion people around the world regularly consume insects in their diet”, and the statistics for the sustainability argument speak for themselves. By comparing the feed conversion ratio (FCR), water consumption and physical footprint of insect farms vs conventional farms it’s easy to see why insects for human consumption are being championed as the solution to feeding a projected population of 9 billion people by 2050 (UNDESA, 2015).
Of the 200 insect species which are regularly eaten, crickets in particular have taken hold of the alternative protein market in Europe and the US. The commercial use of insects as food is largely centred around cricket powder, (sometimes called cricket flour), and its application in existing food products such as energy bars, chips, and pasta. The manufacturers’ environmental credentials are based on the assumption that people will replace conventional meat (pork, chicken, beef, fish) with insects, which, because they require less resources to grow them, will benefit the environment.
Insects as Food and Feed.
At Nutrition Technologies, and a number of other manufacturers of insects as feed, we hold a different view. That whilst people are likely to adopt insects in their diets over time, there will always be a huge demand for conventionally farmed meat. And because of this, it’s crucial to reduce the massive burden placed on the Earth’s resources by feeding these animals. Today over 70% of the world’s crops are farmed for animal feed. And as the population grows, particularly in developing and semi-industrialised countries, the demand for meat will grow proportionately quickly, and with it, the need for feed. So rather than trying to replace conventional meat, by providing a more resource-efficient feed input, we can support the rising demand whilst decreasing the pressure on the world’s arable land, and fish stocks.