Insect protein holds “great potential” to reduce the carbon footprint of European consumers, flags study
08 Sep 2021 --- Researchers at the University of Helsinki and LUT University, Finland, have analyzed the extent to which insect protein could help to reduce global warming associated with food consumption in Europe. In particular, the researchers have focused on insect protein use and soybean-protein use in the production of broilers.
The results support previous research suggesting that insect protein has the greatest potential to reduce the food-related carbon footprints of European consumers, if edible insects – such as crickets, flies, and worms – are consumed directly or processed as food.
Preparation methods include eating them fresh, or drying and processing them into flour for use in bread or pasta.
“Our results indeed suggest that it is more sustainable to use insect protein for food rather than to use it to replace soybean meal in animal feed,” says Professor Bodo Steiner from the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki, Finland.
“Yet we found that a shift to using low-value food industry side stream products – such as catering waste or by-products, for example, from fish processing – in insect production for chicken feed is key to decisively increasing the carbon footprint benefits of using insect protein over soybean meal protein,” he notes.
This important and timely research comes as a part of the current climate change debate, where concerns are being raised over the increasing deforestation associated with the rapid expansion of global soybean cultivation, which is a major protein source for feeding livestock raised for food.
Earlier this week, insect proteins in poultry and pig feed are fully authorised in the European Union
The International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) - the umbrella association of the European insect sector in Brussels - has welcomed the entry into force of the Commission Regulation (EU) 2021/1372, authorizing the use of processed animal proteins derived from insects (insect PAPs) in poultry and pig feed.
Broader movements in insect space
This year has witnessed momentum within the insect arena. In May, the EU allowed the commercialization of dried yellow mealworm and derived products across its markets.
EU member states’ delegates in the EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed backed a draft, Commission Implementing Regulation, aiming at authorizing the placement of dried Tenebrio molitor larvae on the EU market.
This was based on a novel food application submitted by the French insect producer Agronutris which now becomes the first European insect producer officially authorized to sell insects as human food in the EU.
A month earlier, ValuSect, a European insect production project, attributed €410,000 (US$484,863) worth in services to 17 small and medium-sized enterprises located in North-West Europe to help them develop their insect-based food business.
At the beginning of the year, Yellow mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) crossed a significant regulatory hurdle as Europe’s first insect to be identified as safe for consumption. This followed a positive safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority.
Ultimately, it will be EU policymakers in Brussels and capitals who determine if insects should be authorized for the European dinner plate.
However with potentially more species being regarded as safe and novel foods and the continued search for alternative and sustainable proteins, the insect sector looks set for continued growth, even if Western palate still have some adjusting to do.
By Gaynor Selby
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