The best candidates to replace protein from the livestock sector are insects, as they require less food, water, space and energy to breed and their production generates substantially fewer environmental pollutants, such as pesticides and greenhouse gases.
According to Dr. Florence Dunkel, from Montanta State University in the United States, around the world there are approximately 1,900 species of insects documented as potential food sources. Among them are locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, silk moth pupae, beetles, and moth larvae.
Most insects contain large amounts of digestible protein. Some are made up of 80% protein by weight and contain a higher concentration of essential amino acids than most animal protein. Also, they are rich in nutrients like omega-3s. In fact, crickets contain more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon (by dry weight).
Insects can be effectively raised in contaminant-free environments, avoiding common problems in livestock such as contamination by salmonella, listeria, E. Coli or Staphylococcus aureus. While there are a number of challenges to overcome before mass-producing insects, especially cultural barriers, experts agree that they are the food source of the future.
This article is based on the conclusions reached at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and the Food Expo in New Orleans, held on June 23 and 24.