“One hot dog, please — heavy on the maggots.”
Food scientists at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia are incorporating insects such as maggots and locusts into a range of specialty foods, including sausage, as well as formulating sustainable insect-based feeds for the livestock themselves.
Hoffman says conventional livestock production will soon be unable to meet global demand for meat, so other fillers and alternatives will be needed to supplement the food supply with sufficient protein sources.
“An overpopulated world is going to struggle to find enough protein unless people are willing to open their minds, and stomachs, to a much broader notion of food,” says meat science professor Dr. Louwrens Hoffman. “Would you eat a commercial sausage made from maggots? What about other insect larvae and even whole insects like locusts? The biggest potential for sustainable protein production lies with insects and new plant sources.”
The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) team is focusing on pleasing Western palates by disguising insects in pre-prepared foods, says Hoffman, as studies have shown they shy away from eating whole insects.
“In other words, insect protein needs to be incorporated into existing food products as an ingredient, he says. “One of my students has created a very tasty insect ice cream.”
In terms of other sustainable sources of protein, Hoffman also brings up kangaroo meat — ideal because they don’t require grasslands for grazing. They are also supplementing chicken feed, which is currently made mostly of grains, with black fly larvae, with promising results.
“Poultry is a massive industry worldwide and the industry is under pressure to find alternative proteins that are more sustainable, ethical and green than the grain crops currently being used,” says Hoffman, and points out that wild chickens eat mostly insects.
“It’s all pretty logical if you think about it.”
In 2013, a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations report urged global citizens to eat more insects, which, compared to conventional meats, are nutritious, cheaper to produce and more sustainable. Inspired by the report and other studies, several snack makers have marketed insect-based products in the US, including Chirps chips and Chapul protein bars.
Hoffman notes that while eating bugs might seem bonkers to Westerners, “for many millions of people around the world they are a familiar part of the diet.” He also calls for a “global reappraisal of what can constitute healthy, nutritional and safe food for all.”
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