Insects are routinely eaten by humans in diverse cultures, but entomophagy (insect eating) is rare in the West. Insects are considered by some experts to have great potential as a source of safe, high-quality protein, using waste or side-streams of other production systems as feedstocks, exploiting high feed-to-protein conversion ratios and emitting low greenhouse gas emissions.
Some experts believe that entomophagy could form a significant share of the global food system within a few decades. In the short term insect protein could constitute an ‘invisible’ ingredient in processed foods, such as burgers, pies, cakes and breads. Over a longer period, Western cultural attitudes towards the consumption of whole insects might be transformed in the same way attitudes have changed in recent decades towards eating raw fish and seaweed in Japanese sushi and sashimi dishes.
This project will look broadly at the potential implications of entomophagy for the global food system. Questions will be addressed such as:
- Where would these new production facilities be located – for instance, in urban centres or rural areas?
- Could commercial insect rearing be scalable down to domestic or backyard incubators as well as upwards to large, capital-intensive commercial production facilities?
- Would insect production create jobs or opportunities for entrepreneurs in rural areas and the global South?
- More broadly, what are the conditions that will shape the potential futures of entomophagy?
- What assumptions lie behind experts’ confidence in the potential of insects to help feed the world?