'Three-quarters' of public happy to eat animals fed on insects

Three-year project assessing quality and safety factors of using insects in animal feed

Would you be happy to eat chicken or fish that had been reared on fly larvae? That’s the question being asked by an EU-funded project looking at the use of insects in animal feed.

The three-year PROteINSECT project is assessing the quality and safety factors involved in using insects in animal feed. It is led by the UK's Food and Environment Research Agency and has partners in Asia, Africa and the rest of Europe.

Views of the public
As part of the €3 million project, the scientific team is seeking the views of the public on the use of insects in animal feed. Early results suggest 75 per cent of respondents would be happy to eat animals fed on insects.

Spokeswoman for the project Rosie Pryor said initial results also suggested most people believed fly larvae was a suitable source of protein for animal feed. "To us, this demonstrates that people are really starting to grasp the holistic benefits associated with the use of insect protein in animal feed.

“In addition to their nutritional benefits, the inclusion of insect protein in animal feed is environmentally friendly. Insects can be reared on various types of organic waste and thus can significantly help contribute to a reduction in volume of these waste materials.”

Interest is growing in the idea of using insects in the diet of animals and humans. Last year, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) published a study, Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security , which highlighted the nutritional value of insects and the benefits insect farming could have on the environment and on addressing the demand for food worldwide.

Consumer disgust

The FAO's Eva Muller said consumer disgust remained one of the biggest barriers to the eating of insects in the Western world but she pointed to the example of sushi, saying Europeans would not have considered eating raw fish 20 years ago.

The FAO carried out blind food tastings and found nine out of 10 people preferred meatballs made from half meat and half mealworms to those made exclusively from meat.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland said it did not know of plans to introduce insects for human consumption here but said the European Food Safety Authority would have to assess the safety and risks involved.

The survey can be accessed at svy.mk/1d5Sabh