BANGKOK — Researchers say Thailand is showing the world how to respond to the global food crisis: by raising bugs for eating.
The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization released a study and handbook Tuesday on what they call ‘six-legged livestock’ — edible bugs and worms that can help meet global food demand that is expected to grow 60 percent by 2050. The agency says they provide a rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals.
The Agency says that more than two billion people – 30 per cent of the planet’s population – already supplement their diet with insects.A 200-page report, released at a news conference at the U.N. agency’s Rome headquarters, says 2 billion people worldwide already supplement their diets with insects, which are high in protein and minerals, and have environmental benefits.
Insects are ‘extremely efficient’ in converting feed into edible meat, according to the WHO report.
On average, they can convert 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of feed into 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of insect mass. In comparison, cattle require 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of feed to produce a kilo of meat.
Currently, most edible insects are gathered in forests and what insect farming does take place is often family-run and serves niche markets.
But the U.N. says mechanization can ratchet up insect farming production. The fish bait industry, for example, has long farmed insects.
Insect farming is ‘one of the many ways to address food and feed security,’ the food agency said.
Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly,’ the agency said, adding they leave a ‘low environmental footprint.
They provide high-quality protein and nutrients when compared with meat and fish and are ‘particularly important as a food supplement for undernourished children,’ it said.
Insects can also be rich in copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc, and are a source of fiber.
The study was conducted in Thailand, where insects including crickets, grasshoppers and bamboo worms have long been a part of diets, especially in rural areas.
Entomologist Yupa Hanboonsong says about 200 insect species are eaten in Thailand. Cricket farming alone is already a $30 million industry there, but only a few other species have been commercially marketed.