Are we all going to eat insects?

May 24, 2023

It is no secret that the world is facing a food crisis. With our food system putting a strain on natural resources, there is a need for diverse food sources that ensure a sustainable future. At Better Origin, we explore the role of insects in different parts of the food chain, from feed to food.

The buzz on insect protein 

Can we eat insects? The EU certainly thinks so. It has recently allowed lesser mealworms and house crickets to be used in products such as pasta, bread, soups, and beer. This ruling has brought insect ‘meat’ into the public debate. Is this the beginning of a protein revolution?

Insects are an abundant and highly nutritious food source. They are rich in proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, making them an ideal alternative to traditional meat.

Insects also have a lower environmental footprint. They require less land, water, and feed than traditional livestock. Their ability to reproduce quickly makes them a sustainable option that meets the growing demand for protein.

Eating insects is endorsed in many parts of the world. But in the West, it is seen as bizarre or brave. At Better Origin, we focus not on the shock factor but on the taste of insects and how versatile they are. We believe incorporating insects into meals is easy and makes nutritional and environmental sense.

Making sense of insects as food

Many chefs around the world are challenging the way we look at insects. Chef Joseph Yoon, Founder of Brooklyn Bugs, is one of the most prominent insect food advocates. He aims to raise awareness and appreciation for edible insects in a delicious, creative, and educational way. Through initiatives like this, even European and North American consumers can start seeing insects as a nutritional protein source instead of a dare out of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!.

It is not just humans that could be eating insects. Insects are already used as feed in poultry farming, as grown in Better Origin X1 systems around the UK, with some great results. Our trials have found that insect-fed hens laid more eggs, were less stressed, and had better feather coverage. This positive impact of insects as feed could translate into other sectors, such as aquaculture and pet food.

Aquaculture: a new wave of sustainable feed

One of the promising applications of insect protein lies in aquaculture. Fish farming is often criticised for its environmental impact, including the depletion of wild fish stocks for fishmeal. Insects offer a sustainable alternative, providing essential nutrients without overfishing.

Eight insect species have been identified as potential replacements for fishmeal in aquafeeds. They have shown promising results in various trials, successfully replacing up to 100% of fishmeal in some cases. While there is still work to be done to optimise the nutritional value of insect meals for fish, the industry is showing great promise. As research and development continue, using insects as a fish feed ingredient can make aquaculture greener and more profitable.

Pet Food: a pawsitive change 

A study led by the University of Edinburgh into the environmental impact of pet food found that globally we require a land mass twice the size of the UK to produce dry food for our cats and dogs. This production not only used valuable land and water resources but also released 106 million tonnes of CO2. That is the equivalent of a country in the 60th position of the worst greenhouse gas emitters! 

As pet owners become increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of pet diets, insect-based pet food can address it. Insect protein offers a high-quality and sustainable alternative to traditional pet food ingredients.

Rich in essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, insect-based food is nutritionally equivalent to traditional pet food. It can even be superior, especially for those animals with allergies and intolerances. One study on dogs with dietary inflamed atopic dermatitis found that out of 20 dogs (15 fully completed the study), 12 had improved symptoms on an insect-based diet after just two weeks.

Insect pet food can look just like any pet food, including kibble, wet food, and treats. At Better Origin, we have perfected the processing of insects into dried and wet meals for this use. We believe that the development of insect-based pet food products can benefit pet health and create a more sustainable future for all.

Insects on the menu: a tasty alternative for humans

Eating insects might seem foreign to some, but they are already a part of the traditional diets of over 2 billion people worldwide.

As we have already mentioned, insects are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, which play crucial roles in maintaining overall health. Here are some of the top nutritional benefits:

  1. They are an excellent source of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, vital for healthy nerve function and red blood cell production.
  2. Insects like mealworms and crickets are also high in minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium, which support bodily functions from oxygen transport, immune response, and bone health.
  3. The healthy fat content in insects includes essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. Those support brain function, heart health, and immune system regulation.
  4. Insects are nutritionally comparable to traditional protein sources like beef and chicken when combined with fatty fish. They are an excellent option for maintaining muscle mass, supporting immune function, and promoting overall health.

A greener future

Insects can help us create a better future by addressing the issues of our food chain from feed to pet food and human food.

  1. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: Insect farming generates significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional livestock farming. Crickets produce 80 times less methane and 8-12 times less ammonia than cattle.
  2. Lowering resource use: Insects require less land, water, and feed to produce the same amount of protein. For instance, the black soldier fly grown in our systems need 1,500 times less land to deliver the same amount of protein as soy.
  3. Biodiversity conservation: The high demand for traditional meat has led to extensive deforestation and habitat loss to make way for livestock farming. By choosing insects over meat, we can help preserve natural habitats and protect biodiversity. 
  4. Waste reduction and upcycling: Insects such as the black soldier fly larvae used in our X1 system can be raised on organic waste materials like food scraps, converting them into valuable protein sources. This process reduces waste and upcycles it into a nutritious food product, supporting a more circular food system. 

Technology makes it all possible

Integrating insects into our food chain may seem like a bold leap, but with the power of artificial intelligence, we can make this transition smoother. Insects are a new type of livestock, and learning about their needs can be challenging.

Better Origin X1 insect farm
X1 insect farm growing insect feed for chickens in Wern Farm, Wales

At Better Origin, we set out to make incorporating insects easier for farmers and food companies. Our insect farms are powered by AI, managing all the farming processes.

So you want to know more about insect farming?

At Better Origin, we have perfected the art of converting food waste into food and put it to use in collaboration with farmers and supermarkets.

If you think we could help your business, you can read more about our insect farm or reach out to us.