Thailand's pioneering advances over the past 15 years in commercial insect farming were made available yesterday in a new publication launched by the United Nations.
“It is hoped that by making this information accessible, others will fully recognise the potential of edible insects to contribute to food security,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, regional representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The UN agency estimates that food production will need to increase 60 per cent from current levels to meet global food requirements by 2050, and has become a keen advocate of insect consumption.
“The world may face a food security crisis, but I think Thai people will survive because we know how to eat insects,” said Yupa Hanboonsong, co-author of the book “Six-legged Livestock: Edible Insect Farming”.
It outlines Thailand’s success over the past 15 years in raising and domestically marketing three insect species – crickets, palm weevils and bamboo caterpillars. Its commercial production averages 7,500 tonnes a year.
Insects have long been part of the Thai diet, but academics and FAO officials are hoping they will become a more common source of protein and nutrients elsewhere.
“One great advantage of eating insects is they have very high efficiency in converting the food they eat into the food matter that humans can consume,” said Patrick Durst, FAO senior forestry officer and a co-author of the book.
Insects are six times more efficient in converting food into edible body weight than livestock such as cattle, he said. They are also environmentally friendly.
“Raising insects requires a lot less land and water, and they emit less greenhouse gases,” Durst said.
In both Asia and Europe, insects have increasingly been used as ingredients in processed foods, removing the squeamish factor of eating bugs.
“You don’t have to look an insect in the eye when you eat it,” Durst said. “When you eat a steak, it doesn’t look like a cow.”