ROME, Italy -- Beetles, caterpillars and wasps could supplement diets around the world as an environmentally friendly food source if only Western consumers could get over their "disgust," the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Monday.
"The main message is really: 'Eat insects'", Eva Mueller, director of
forest economics at the FAO, told a press conference in Rome.
"Insects are abundant and they are a valuable source of protein and minerals," she said.
"Two billion people -- a third of the world's population -- are
already eating insects because they are delicious and nutritious," she
Also speaking at the press conference was Gabon Forestry Minister
Gabriel Tchango who said: "Insect consumption is part of our daily
He said some insects -- like beetle larvae and grilled termites -- were considered delicacies.
"Insects contribute about 10 percent of animal protein consumed by the population," he said.
The report said insect farming was "one of the many ways to address food and feed insecurity."
"Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly, and they have
high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental
footprint," said the report, co-authored by the FAO and Wageningen
University in the Netherlands.
But the authors admitted that "consumer disgust remains one of the
largest barriers to the adoption of insects as viable sources of protein
in many Western countries."
Mueller said that brands such as yogurt maker Danone and Italian
alcoholic drinks maker Campari used dye from insects to color their
It suggested that the food industry could help in "raising the status
of insects" by including them in recipes and putting them on restaurant
"Beetles, grasshoppers and other insects... are now showing up though
on the menus of some restaurants in some European capitals," said
Mueller, as she showed photo slides of crickets being used as decoration
on top of high-end restaurant desserts.
The report also called for wider use of insects as feed for
livestock, saying that poor regulation and under-investment currently
meant it "cannot compete" with traditional sources of feed.
"The use of insects on a large scale as a feed ingredient is
technically feasible, and established companies in various parts of the
world are already leading the way," it added, highlighting in particular
producers in China, South Africa, Spain and the United States.
"Insects can supplement traditional feed sources such as soy, maize,
grains and fishmeal," it said, adding that the ones with most potential
were larvae of the black soldier fly, the common housefly and the yellow
The report also said the insects most commonly consumed by humans are
beetles (31 percent), caterpillars (18 percent) and bees, wasps and
ants (14 percent), followed by grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (13
The report said a total of 1,900 species of insects are consumed around the world.
It said trade in insects was thriving in cities such as Bangkok and
Kinshasa and that a similar culture of insect consumption -- entomophagy
-- should be established elsewhere, stressing that it was often cheaper
to farm insects.
While beef has an iron content of 6.0 milligrams per 100 grams of dry
weight, the iron content of locusts varies between 8.0 and and 20
milligrams per 100 grams, the report said.
It also said that insects require just two kilograms of feed to
produce one kilogram of insect meat compared to a ratio of 8-to-1 for
The report concluded: "History has shown that dietary patterns can
change quickly, particularly in a globalized world. The rapid acceptance
of raw fish in the form of sushi is a good example."
"Not everybody is ready to pop a bug in their mouth," Mueller said.
"It will probably take a while. But some people are already doing it."
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