Understanding Edible Insects as Food in Western and Eastern Societies

Understanding Edible Insects as Food in Western and Eastern Societies

Giovanni Sogari (University of Parma, Italy), Aijun Liu (Nanjing Agricultural University, China) and Jie Li (Cornell University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7350-0.ch009

Abstract

In the forthcoming decades, insects might become an important alternative protein source for human consumption. However, what do consumers think about eating insects? The answer is still not very clear, and large differences exist between Western and Eastern societies. While the former has never really experienced edible insects as food, (some) Eastern countries have already practiced entomophagy for a long time. To better understand consumers' perception in both types of societies, a literature review was carried out. The results show that in the Western countries, the consumption of edible insects will depend primarily on availability in the market (i.e., regulatory framework and industry), product category (i.e., processed or unprocessed, familiar or unfamiliar), communication, and marketing. Nonetheless, more research studies are needed to explore Eastern consumers and the development of the edible insect market and industry in Asian countries.
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Introduction

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) forecasts a 2.7% annual increase in meat production in the coming years, primarily driven by population growth in developing countries (FAO, 2017). This increase, along with the limited land area available, may pose a challenge for the meat industry worldwide, and alternative protein sources are most likely to be needed to feed a growing population (van Huis, 2016). The heavy ecological footprint of the livestock industry is another reason for the search for alternatives (FAO, 2006). Over the past several years, the FAO, through its publications, in particular Edible insects, future prospects for food and feed security, (FAO, 2013), work programs, and field projects, has been promoting the idea of insects as food to help increase consumer acceptability in its member countries (Vantomme, 2015).

In addition to their possible consumption by humans, insects are also being studied as an innovative ingredient for animal feeds, including feed for conventional livestock (e.g. poultry and swine), fish, and pets. This is because insect-based animal feeds are high in protein content, especially when processed and transformed into insect flour (van Huis, Van Itterbeeck, Klunder, Mertens, Halloran, Muir, & Vantomme, 2013). Although insect-based feeds appear to be a viable option, further studies are needed regarding the nutritional, environmental and economic benefits of using them to reduce and replace conventional animal feeds (Rumpold & Schlüter, 2013a; Gasco, Finke, & van Huis, 2018). Particularly, it is not known what additional health benefits exist for animals that consume insect-based feeds, relative to traditional feed formulae, such as fishmeal and soybeans (Gasco, Finke, & van Huis, 2018).

Also for human consumption, insect-based food appears to be a healthy choice because it is an excellent source of protein, fat, energy and fiber (see Table 1). Nutrient composition varies greatly depending on species (Belluco, Losasso, Maggioletti, Alonzi, Paoletti, & Ricci, 2013; Rumpold & Schlüter, 2013b). Additionally, insect production is generally considered to be more sustainable from an environmental point of view (Hartmann & Siegrist, 2017). Therefore, insect proteins are seen as an alternative sustainable source for both human and animals.

Table 1.
Average content of protein, fat and energy of specific insect orders
Insect OrdersProtein
(% Dry Matter)
Fat (% Dry Matter)Fiber (%)Energy (kcal/100 g)
Blattodea (cockroaches)57.3029.905.31-
Coleoptera (adult beetles, larvae)40.6933.4010.74490.30
Hemiptera (true bugs)48.3330.2612.40478.99
Hymenoptera (ants, bees)46.4725.095.71484.45
Isoptera (termites)35.3432.745.06
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths)45.3827.666.60508.89
Odonata (dragonflies, damselflies)55.2319.8311.79431.33
Orthoptera (crickets, grasshoppers, locusts)61.3213.419.55426.25

Source of data: (Rumpold & Schluter, 2013b)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Eastern Society: A group of people living in or originating from the East, in particular Asia.

Market Perspective: A term which covers broad issues, including the global economy, market environment, and/or sector overviews.

Entomophagy: The eating practice of consuming insects, which is derived from the Greek words éntomon (insect) and phagein (to eat).

Consumer Attitude: A settled way of thinking or feeling about something of consumer value.

Western Society: A group of people living in or originating from the West, in particular Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Western Culture: A term used to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, and specific artefacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Europe.

Insect-Based Food: All kinds of food products which use insect ingredients in the preparation (e.g., insect powder).

Eastern Culture: A term used to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, and specific artefacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Asia.

Edible Insects: All types of insects which are considered edible for human consumption (around 2,000 species today).

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