Edible insects are “a more” environmentally friendly and sustainable way to meet the increased demand for animal protein, a recent science event heard.
During Teagasc’s recent 60-minute science food sustainability event, Dr. Eduarda Neves spoke about the state agency’s investigation into insects as protein for future generations.
In her opening address, the Teagasc researcher commented that by 2050, circa 10 billion people will live on the planet, which means that the global population is “increasing rapidly”.
She told attendees that this would “take us to a food shortage and to a protein supply shortage”.
“For that, we will need to consider alternative protein sources, or let us say more sustainable sources of protein.”
“With that, we bring our insects to this game. Our eligible insects are very well-known and widespread.”
She explained that they are a “huge source of highly valuable” protein and also offer a blend of vitamins, minerals and good fatty acids, such as omega three and omega six.
She continued: “For the production of insects, they are environmentally friendly when compared to farming cows or farming for beef, or farming for pigs or something like that.”
She went on the say that “the amount of land, the amount of the energy, or the amount of water that we need to produce insects is far, far less than we need for the other type of activities”.
“So let us say, for example, to produce 10kgs of beef, we will need an Aviva Stadium, but to produce the same amount of insects, we need a tiny bedroom,” she remarked.
She commented that these factors are resulting in insects being viewed as one of the world’s future proteins.
Teagasc, she explained, is attempting to understand how it can modify the nutritional value of mealworms and crickets.
It is currently feeding non-used food products, wheat bran, oats, chicken feather meal and red blood cells from pork in a powder form to “understand how they can accumulate and to be a superfood full of iron in the future for all of us”.
She outlined that Teagasc is investigating if insects are safe for human consumption.
“With my colleagues in Teagasc, we are screening the bugs that are present on them, but so far, we are just learning, as the insects are not yet legal for consumption in Ireland.”
“But, what we are finding so far is that they are within the frame guidelines for minced beef, that the minced beef that we find on our supermarket shelves.”
“So far, they are very, very promising. But we have one question – what about eating them? We all know that Europeans look at insects with a yuck factor.”
With its research community, the state agency is attempting to find a way to produce and process insects as ingredients to incorporate them further into food types.
The researcher provided examples of granola with cricket powder, carrot spread with mealworm powder and mealworm pasta.
She drew her presentation to a close with the following remark: “In my opinion, insects are very sustainable, and I think they are one of our future proteins.”
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