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COULD EATING MORE INSECTS HELP TACKLE WORLD HUNGER?

Press release   •   Nov 21, 2019 09:59 GMT

Alexandra Rutishauser-Perera enjoying mealworms and crickets

Insects are high in nutrients, produce a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gases of cattle, and could play an important role in tackling malnutrition in the developing world.

Although seen as one of the more gruesome challenges on ITV’s ‘I’m a celebrity…get me out of here’, in many countries around the world insects are not only a staple part of many people’s diet, they are highly prized as delicacies.

Eating insects, a practice known as entomophagy, has been practiced for millennia and more than a quarter of the world’s population (2 billion people) currently consume insects as part of their diet. In Japan wasps are prized as a delicacy, whilst in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso, caterpillars are king, with festivals and celebrations heralding their arrival in August.

Alexandra Rutishauser-Perera, Head of Nutrition at Action Against Hunger UK:

“Although not commonly consumed in the UK, many countries around the world enjoy tucking into a variety of insects. Not only are they a great source of protein, they can also be really tasty. The best nachos I’ve ever had were garnished with guacamole and crickets. Absolutely delicious!”

“I think there needs to be a dramatic culture shift if the UK is to adopt insects into its diet, but it isn’t out of the question. If you take Lobster as an example, during the 19th century they were seen as a food for the destitute and some American coastal states had limits on how much lobster they could feed prisoners. They thought dining out on Lobster was a “cruel and unusual” hardship.”

“Although getting more insects into our diet may be a tall order, the benefits for the planet are obvious. It takes roughly 2kg of feed to produce 1kg of insects, whilst the same amount of beef needs 8kg. Regarding what comes out the other end, pigs can produce as much as 100 times the greenhouse gases of mealworms! Insects really are a super food”

How insects can help to tackle global malnutrition

This year, for the third consecutive year, hunger levels grew. With global population set to reach close to 10 billion by 2050, solutions must be found for how we can ensure people, particularly children, have access to the nutrition they require for healthy development.

Action Against Hunger recently undertook a study in the Central African Republic to explore how Entomophagy could help the country address extremely high rates of chronic malnutrition which affects more than 40 per cent of the country’s children under 5. The study highlighted that not only do insects present a source of nutrition which is more resilient to climate shocks than other food stuffs, but that supporting entomophagy could potentially reduce food insecurity whilst creating employment opportunities, particularly for women.

According to the FAO, it takes 15000 litres of water and 8kg of feed to produce a single kilogram of beef. Insects on the other hand can be fed on bio-waste and require just 2kg of feed for every kilogram. They are also incredibly resilient to drought and many species require less than 1 litre of water per kilogram of insect. In parts of the world where harvests and livestock can be decimated by drought or conflict, developing sustainable infrastructure for year round insect production could play an important role in tackling malnutrition.

Alexandra Rutishauser-Perera, Head of Nutrition at Action Against Hunger UK:

“Improving access and consumption of insects could play an important role in tackling global hunger. Insects are more capable of weathering the increasing climate shocks we are witnessing and deliver more calories, protein and nutrients than traditional staples. 100 grams of crickets has 63 grams of protein, beef only has 24 grams.”

“Many of the countries that are hardest hit by climate shocks already consume insects as part of their diet. The challenge is that many of these insects are seasonal and so the nutritious benefits are only available for a limited window. There is a need to explore solutions that preserve them all year round”

“As well as the nutritional benefits, there is also the employment opportunities that the insect industry can create.”

FOOD (100g serving) CALORIES PROTEIN (g) LIPIDS (g) GLUCOSE (g)
BEEF 312 24 24 0
MUTTON 253 25.8 16.4 0
BROILED COD 182 26.2 7.8 0
CRICKETS 420 63.3 10.4 15.8
TERMITES 540 31.8 42.6 5.8
CATERPILLARS 430 52.9 15.4 22
PALM WEEVIL LARVAE 333 62.3 15.4 15.8
More than 1900 insect species are consumed around the world. The most commonly consumed are:
INSECT TYPE PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL (numbers have been rounded)
1 beetles (Coleoptera) 31%
2 caterpillars (Lepidoptera) 18%
3 bees, wasps and ants (Hymenoptera) 14%
4 grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (Orthoptera) 13%
5 Cicadas, leaf and planthoppers, scale insects and true bugs (Hemiptera) 10%
6 Termites (Isoptera) 3%
7 Dragonflies (Odonata) 3%
8 Flies (Diptera) 2%
9 Other 5%


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Anthony Gale at a.gale@actionagainsthunger.org.uk or call +44 7534 903 812

  • Action Against Hunger is a global humanitarian organisation that takes decisive action against the causes and effects of hunger. We save the lives of malnourished children and work with their communities before and after disaster strikes. We ensure that everyone can access clean water, food, training and healthcare. We enable people to provide for themselves and we constantly search for more effective solutions, while sharing our knowledge and expertise with the world. We push for long-term change. We will never give up. Until the world is free from hunger.
  • In 2018, Action Against Hunger helped more than 21 million people in nearly 50 countries around the world.
  • www.actionagainsthunger.org.uk
  • Follow us @acf_uknews   

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