Will insect protein be the food of the future? Here’s what the science says

Will insect protein be the food of the future? Here’s what the science says

The practice of humans eating insects, known as “entomophagy”, sounds somewhat revolutionary in the UK. But, in reality, many countries worldwide have already embraced insect protein as a regular part of their diets, particularly in Asia and Latin America.

Amazingly, WorldAtlas reports that the entire edible insect market is set to reach $1.2 billion by 2023.

Eating insects may seem unappealing, but doing so could be a potential solution to food security issues caused by severe global events such as climate change and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

So, is insect protein the food of the future? Or just an unusual science fiction fad? Continue reading to discover exactly what the science says about entomophagy, and how likely it is that we’ll all be consuming bugs at some point in the foreseeable future.

Insects can provide complete protein 

Undoubtedly, your first concern as a professional athlete is whether insect protein is healthy.

You may be surprised to hear that many edible crickets have a higher protein content than familiar animal-based protein sources, like chicken or pork.

In fact, Healthline reports that cricket protein powder contains around 65.5% protein, and adult crickets provide between 13.2 and 20.3 grams of protein in every 100-gram serving.

If the thought of crunching on crickets puts you off, then never fear – cricket-based proteins could one day be used as a base to make products such as protein powders or bars.

Better yet, research from PubMed suggests that crickets are a form of complete protein, as they contain all nine of the essential amino acids required to be classed as such.

The amount of protein you consume in your diet is likely calculated by your club’s nutritionist, though assuming you need 80 grams of protein a day, you can see that it would be possible to source at least some of this from insect protein.

Aside from protein, PubMed also states that insects contain high levels of vitamins and minerals that could make consuming them a healthy choice. This includes:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Fibre
  • Fatty acids, including omega 3 and 6
  • Antioxidants.

The research gathered by Healthline states that the iron content of crickets is 180% higher than beef, and they are higher in calcium and B vitamin riboflavin than chicken, pork, and beef.

Also, the fibre count of crickets, which most other sources of animal-based protein lack, can reach as high as 13.4% in a 100-gram serving.

All in all, evidence does suggest that crickets could be a healthy form of protein, as well as other crucial vitamins and minerals.

Insect protein is environmentally friendlier than meat

While meat is a fantastic source of protein, it also comes with a wide range of environmental concerns.

Indeed, the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation(FAO) states that livestock accounts for 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, farming insects for consumption is typically much better for the environment than traditional animal husbandry. For example, the FAO reports that pigs produce up to 100 times more greenhouse gases for every kilogram of weight compared to mealworms.

Also, insects require far less feed to develop than traditional livestock, and they can convert it to mass more efficiently. According to the FAO, insects can convert just two kilograms of feed into one kilogram of mass. Meanwhile, traditional livestock requires eight kilograms of feed to achieve the same returns.

Better yet, insects can feed on bio-waste, such as human and food waste, compost, or animal slurry, so you should essentially think of them as avid recyclers.

Land and water use issues have also recently taken the spotlight in conversations about the climate, and insect protein could be the solution to both problems.

Insect farming typically requires much less land and water than traditional livestock – mealworms, for example, are more drought-resistant than cattle. This could make insect farming especially suited to warmer parts of the world where water is scarce.

Restrictions make it unlikely that you’ll be eating insects any time soon in the UK

If, after reading this, you’re now excited to incorporate insects as part of your regular diet, it is, unfortunately, unlikely that you’ll be able to consume bug-based products in the UK anytime soon.

The Scotsman reported that fledgling edible insect companies have struggled to get approval for their products, partly due to Brexit trade law issues and complications.

The good news is, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK announced in July that any edible insects that were marked for sale in the EU or the UK before 1 January 2018 would now be allowed to be sold once again.

According to Vice, if you’re living in the UK, you can now purchase and consume six different insect species. This includes:

  • Lesser mealworms
  • House crickets
  • Yellow mealworms
  • Banded or decorated crickets
  • Migratory locust
  • Black soldier flies.

So, while the consumption of insects may have a long way to go before it can replace traditional staples, they could offer a fantastic way to supplement your diet with additional protein and vitamins.