Purpose: Feeding a growing world population with more demanding consumers will necessarily require an increase in food production. This will inevitably place heavy pressure on already limited resources such as land, oceans, fertilizers, water and energy. If agricultural production, deforestation, and environmental degradation continues in its present form, this pressure is set to continue. For these reasons this kind of new food could represent a real substitute for all usual food animal proteins.
Methods: The different possible types of ecosystems, species and livestock rearing systems were analyzed. The health risks related to the consumption of insects and the benefits to the environment and society were considered.
Results: Consuming insects has a number of advantages: they have high feed-conversion efficiency (an animal’s capacity to convert feed mass into increased body mass, represented as kg of feed per kg of weight gain); they can be reared on organic side streams, reducing environmental contamination while adding value to waste; they require significantly less water than cattle rearing; they have few animal welfare issues, although the extent to which insects experience pain is largely unknown; and they pose a low risk of transmitting zoonotic infections.
Significance: Edible insects could be a promising alternative for the conventional production of meat, either for direct human consumption or for indirect use as feedstock. Eating insects is not only good for health, it is good for the planet.