Agriculture and climate change combined can halve insect populations

Interplay between historical climate warming and intensive agricultural land use is associated with a reduction of almost 50% in insect abundance, reports a paper in Nature.

Climate change and land-use change are known to affect insect biodiversity, and these factors can act synergistically; for example, removing natural habitats to make agricultural land can alter the microclimate and increase temperature extremes. But the effect of interactions between these factors and insect biodiversity is less well understood than for other animal species.

To address this gap in knowledge, Charlotte Outhwaite, Peter McCann and Tim Newbold combined data on temperature changes and land-use changes with data on insect biodiversity in more than 6,000 different locations around the world, with the data spanning a 20-year period. Continue reading

Researchers gauge nutritional properties of protein in cricket, locust and silkworm pupae insect powders

Brace yourself to dine on bugs – or to take a powder to provide yourself with protein.

As the human population grows to a predicted 10 billion by 2050 and overall land mass remains constant, traditional animal farming may become a less viable method for food production.

Animal farming has traditionally fulfilled human nutritional requirements for protein, but insects may serve as an alternative for direct human consumption in the future.

American researchers have determined the nutritional and functional properties of protein for cricket, locust and silk worm pupae powders, laying a foundation to develop efficient protein isolation techniques.

The findings by Jacek Jaczynski, professor food science and muscle food safety at West Virginia University’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, Yong-Lak Park, professor of entomology, and Kristen Matak, professor of animal and nutritional sciences, are published in LWT.

“We have a patent on a protein isolation procedure,” Jaczynski said.

We use our patented technique to isolate protein and then we also learn about properties of isolated protein and how it can be potentially used in food for human consumption.” Continue reading

Insect protein has great potential to reduce the carbon footprint of European consumers

The use of insects as food for humans and animals has both the potential to reduce European consumers’ carbon footprint and contribute to reducing incentives for continued soybean cultivation in the Amazon rainforest. However, when compared to feeding insects to farm animals, the direct human consumption of insects has the biggest potential to reduce our consumption-based carbon footprint.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki and LUT University, Finland, have analysed the extent to which insect protein could help to reduce global warming associated with food consumption in Europe. They have especially focused on insect protein use and soybean-protein use in the production of broilers.

The results support previous research suggesting that insect protein has the greatest potential to reduce the food-related carbon footprints of European consumers, if edible insects — such as crickets, flies, and worms — are consumed directly or processed as food. Preparation methods include eating them fresh, or drying and processing them into flour for use in bread or pasta.

“Our results indeed suggest that it is more sustainable to use insect protein for food rather than to use it to replace soybean meal in animal feed,” says Professor Bodo Steiner from the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki, Finland.

“Yet we found that a shift to using low-value food industry side stream products — such as catering waste or by-products, for example, from fish processing — in insect production for chicken feed is key to decisively increasing the carbon footprint benefits of using insect protein over soybean meal protein.” 

All this is important and timely, because as a part of the current climate change debate, concerns have been raised over the increasing deforestation associated with the rapid expansion of global soybean cultivation, which is a major protein source for feeding livestock raised to be food for humans.

Journal Reference:

  1. A. Vauterin, B. Steiner, J. Sillman, H. Kahiluoto. The potential of insect protein to reduce food-based carbon footprints in Europe: The case of broiler meat productionJournal of Cleaner Production, 2021; 320: 128799 DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.128799

Source:  ScienceDaily

Survey reveals the nation’s appetite for eating insects

When it comes to eating insects, New Zealanders like them crunchy and if given a choice would opt to eat a black field cricket before other creepy-crawlies, according to a new AgResearch report that explores the nation’s appetite for insects.

The Crown Research Institute surveyed 1300 New Zealanders to assess which native insects respondents would be most likely to consume to test the market potential for each insect as a product.

The survey found participants are more likely to eat – given the choice – black field cricket nymphs and locust nymphs, followed by mānuka beetle and then huhu beetle grubs.

Participants said they would least like to consume porina caterpillars and wax moth larvae, which suggests we are more open to eating “crunchier” insects, as opposed to the softer “squishier” insects, reinforcing that texture is an important factor influencing decisions to consume insects. Continue reading