Insects are an essential part of the daily food intake for around 2 billion people worldwide. Aside from the high protein content, insects are a source of high-quality lipids and essential fats, vitamins, fiber, and minerals such as calcium and iron. The most used insects proteins production are black soldier fly, mealworms, crickets, and locusts. While lipids can be used in biofuels, and by-products such as chitin show great potential to be used in the bioplastic and pharmaceutical industries, insect proteins can be used in human food, pet food, fish feed, and animal feed.
What are insect proteins?
Insect proteins are high-quality feedstock obtained from insects that can be used as an ingredient for feed for animals, pets, and fish. They are a new food and feed source, and an effort to move away from the traditional sources of proteins like meat and soy. Insect proteins are derived from edible insects and depending on what species are fed with it, different insects are recommended in their diets.
Which insects can be used to produce proteins?
A study shows that there are about 2000 edible insect species worldwide, but only a handful has been discovered. Some of these high protein insects already discovered are black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens), mealworms crickets and locusts. However, black soldier fly larvae show the greatest potential to be used in animal feed, as they have more benefits besides being a protein source.
Why are they important as an alternative solution for animal feed going forward?
The world population is estimated to have grown to 9 billion people by the year 2050. However, the already large population will occupy a large part of the land, leaving only a small percentage for agriculture to provide food for human consumption and animals. This will force farmers to look for ways to produce animal feed on the scarce land available. Insects as a source of protein are sustainable and environmentally friendly because insects have a far smaller ecological footprint than other protein sources. In comparison to livestock, insects need far fewer resources, water, and land and have nutritional characteristics comparable to those of fish meal, making them a perfect fit to substitute other unsustainable protein sources. Large-scale production of insects takes up little space, water, and energy, and many species can be fed using organic food waste or industrial side streams. This decreases the cost of production and makes insects even more sustainable as the food waste problem is tackled at the same time.
How can insects be used in the production of pet food?
Insects have a high protein value of between 40 to 60% and, further contain nutrients like zinc, amino acids, and vitamins. In pet food, insects can substitute ingredients that provide these nutrients and vitamins and even add other nutrients to the mixture. Insect proteins especially appeal to vegetarian pet owners who prefer alternative proteins to meat for their pets too. Insects have an essential amino acid called taurine, which is otherwise only found in meat and fish. Therefore, insects in pet food can substitute meat and fish. Insect proteins can also be an excellent alternative source of protein for pets with food sensitivities to avoid their gastrointestinal tracts’ irritation.
How far developed is the market for insect proteins?
For the last decade, many companies have researched and optimized production processes and are now finally at the point where they can start scaling up their production and tackle the problem they have all worked towards. However, the focus on research and production optimization has kept them from building up global sales networks, and they are now facing the next challenge of marketing their products. However, what they lack is an insight into the global market, leads they can contact, and sales channels they can use. Once these problems are solved, the large-scale market entry of insect proteins will be unstoppable. We confidently predict a global volume of at least 1.5 million MT per year by 2025 and around 5 million MT by 2030.