Edible Insects: The Protein of the Poor?

This article was written for the #HiEurope trade show in Amsterdam and first published on the Ingredients Network

While three quarters of the food industry and NGOs claim to be looking for solutions to solve the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population, two vital questions still go unanswered:

  1. How will corporate responsibility initiatives lead to finding solutions to the world food challenge?
  2. How prepared are we as citizens (and corporations) to take the steps necessary to reduce biodiversity devastation?


Is there no other way or viable food alternative?

A small, mighty and much-overlooked source of protein has been buzzing around news and media channels over the past decade: entomophagy, otherwise known as the consumption of insects as food.

Entomophagy is already common in many parts of the world. Slowly but surely, the prospect of introducing insects into our daily diet as a viable alternative for North Americans and Europeans is gaining traction. Once the personal opinions and genuine “ick factor” are set aside, that is.

In an attempt to dismiss insect protein as a viable alternative, many say edible insects are food for the poor. In some regions of the world where resources are scarce, insect protein may be the only alternative. But to assume it is a poor man’s food is to insult some fellow countries’ cultures where edible insects are a staple, traditional food and even, in some cases, a true delicacy!

The immediate challenge, however, is to move forward on resolving regulatory issues and establishing a scalable way of breeding, transforming and distributing edible insects as a significant protein source for human consumption.

Progress and awareness are being made thanks to top universities worldwide and the dedication of entomology experts such as Professors Eric Haubruge, Jürg Grunder and Arnold van Huis and companies like New Generation Nutrition BV, Insect Europe BV, Aspire among other brave ones.


Today, effective support is limited only to two or three pioneering authorities and Research Centers with vision. One day in the near future, my hope is that the “taboo” around including insects in our diet will soften, and that the subject will be brought up more frequently at planetary conferences and congressional committees.

Can entomophagy solve all the world’s protein deficiency problems or demands? No – but it is certain that, given the right opportunity, it will prove itself to be a significant natural, eco-friendly solution in a circular economy.

So next time you find yourself frowning at the thought of diving into a cricket taco or adding insect protein powder to your breakfast smoothie, remember this: lobster was once the scavenger of sea, the “food of the poor” and is now a delicacy on our plates, and escargot (those slimy creatures crawling over many five star restaurant tables) is a multi-million dollar industry with the going price for snail caviar at £90 per jar.

Interested in learning more about the future of insect protein? Visit FAO’s Edible Insects: Future prospects for food and feed security.






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