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Feeding The 9 Billion: EU Researching Use Of Insects For Food Protein

Eating insect at a restaurant

McDonald’s and some other fast food joints may have gotten rid of “pink slime” in their meat products, but now, the European Union is looking to use another seemingly unsettling product to add protein to food: insects.

While the shock factor will likely be persistent in the minds of many customers, an insect-based food additive could be a more eco-friendly way to provide the rapidly growing world population with protein at an affordable cost. It’s cheaper and more ecologically sound to harvest bugs rather than large cattle.

The development of insect byproducts will take off in 2012, with the EU reportedly offering 3 million euros for a research project designed to “exploit the potential of insects as alternative sources of protein.”

In countries where bugs are already a significant part of the diet, industrial-scale farming of insects would be useful immediately. However, in countries where eating insects is considered gross and taboo, it’s hard to see fast food joints catching on quickly unless there is widespread public acceptance, or they twist the additive into a term that doesn’t make consumers think of multi-legged heebie jeebies.

Developing a plan for this may take several years. Aside from creating quality food additives that will be accepted by consumers, concerns related to food safety such as allergy risks related to plants consumed by insects may delay it as well.

With 9 billion people expected to populate the world by 2050, do you think insect additives are a good way to feed the population and replenish the already stressed food supply? For those who refuse to eat less beef, it may soon be one of the few choices we have if we want to make a difference at all.

Image CC licensed by George Arriola: Insects are on the menu at a restaurant in California

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