Tasty grub? Survey asks should we have insects in animal feed

Interest growing in use of insects in human and animal diets

Tasty grub? The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has highlighted the nutritional value of insects and the benefits insect farming could have on the environment and on addressing the demand for food worldwide. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Tasty grub? The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has highlighted the nutritional value of insects and the benefits insect farming could have on the environment and on addressing the demand for food worldwide. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

A new survey is asking European consumers if they should allow insects to be used in animal feed.

The survey is being conducted by the EU-funded PROteINSECT project which is investigating the use of insects in animal feed and consumer acceptance of the practice.

Interest is growing in the idea of using insects in the diet of animals and humans.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has highlighted the nutritional value of insects and the benefits insect farming could have on the environment and on addressing the demand for food worldwide.

Dr Elaine Fitches, co-ordinator of the PROteINSECT project, said global consumption of meat was increasing and with it, the need for animal feed.

More than 40 million tonnes of crop proteins such as soya are imported into EU countries every year and 60 per cent of that is used to feed the livestock being reared for their meat.

Insect protein

She said protein from insect larvae might offer an affordable and sustainable addition to imported crop proteins, but certain questions must first be addressed.

“There would be little point in retailers stocking meat from insect-reared animals if shoppers were unwilling to buy it,” Dr Fitches said.

“It’s so important that we find out what the public wants and needs to help them make an informed choice.”

Insects are commonly used in Asia and Africa for both animal and human food, but she said there was still a “yuck” factor associated with bugs in Europe.

A survey by the project last year found that more than 70 per cent of respondents would be willing to eat pork, chicken or fish from animals fed on insects.

Dr Fitches said this was a more positive result than expected.

She said the findings of the new survey would help to inform Europe-wide policy on future food security.

“We are particularly keen to hear from the next generation of consumers because they will have significant influence over future food consumption and shopping behaviours,” Dr Fitches said.

*To complete the survey go to to proteinsect.eu