Edible insects: the low carbon snack with big potential

Jar of edible insects for sale in Scotland

Edible insects could be a major player in Scotland's sustainability progress.

It’s fair to say that TV shows haven’t been the best advert for edible insects, but these tiny creatures offer way more than mere entertainment value. So, what lessons could Scotland learn from Thailand, the world largest producer of edible insects, and what are the challenges currently facing the sector in the UK?

Almost a decade ago, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations officially recognised the benefits of eating insects. Since then demand for edible insects has been rising rapidly across Europe, largely due to environmental benefits as consumers seek out alternative protein sources.

In terms of sustainable goals, Eat Grub, an online edible insect company, claims that the average greenhouse gas emissions to produce 1kg of protein from insects is only 1g compared to 300g and 2,850g from chicken and cattle respectively. It also highlights that crickets per 100g can contain up to 69g of protein, compared to 19.4g from the same weight of beef. Then, of course, there is the volume of land which insects requires versus cattle… No contest, really!
In Thailand, where eating insects as a snack is commonplace, the sector has grown to be a significant contributor to economy. There are now with more than 20,000 insect producing enterprises in the country generating an average annual output of 7,500 tonnes, mainly supplying the domestic and regional market, and generating employment opportunities especially in rural and local communities.

The Government of Thailand has heavily invested in research and development bringing together policymakers, academics and key stakeholders in establishing Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for cricket farming - the first GAP for cricket production in the world. This certification system has been set up to help improve farm management systems and to ensure that insect products meet quality and safety standards.

However the introduction of new and developing EU regulations relating to edible insect products have muddied the waters, leading to confusing procedures for those looking to trade and export edible insects. This has been particularly impactful following the UK’s exit from the EU because it means there are currently no regulations for the edible insect (for human consumption) industry and it is therefore illegal to sell insects for human consumption in the UK.

The Rural Policy Centre’s recent Policy Spotlight on edible insects (From yuck to yum: unlocking the potential of edible insects) explains the current status of the insect sector in Europe and the UK and urges policymakers to take action to enable it to survive.

Listen to Dr Pattanapong Tiwasing, researcher at Rural Policy Centre, explain more about the insect sector on The SRUC Podcast.

Posted by SRUC on 30/11/2022

Tags: Rural Policy Centre
Categories: Sustainability