Edible Insects

In the context of an expanding population, water scarcity, farmland shortage, and climate change, improving the sustainability of food production is imperative to meet the growing demand for food. With high feed conversion rate, low environmental footprint, and good nutritional value, edible insects have great potentials to serve as an alternative source of food. Our research group assesses different aspects of incorporating insects into our diet.

An overview of using insects as food: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-100596-5.21782-4


Consumer Acceptance

Consuming insect as food has not established popularity in the US. We conducted a survey to assess the consumer acceptance of entomophagy and to identify the factors that affect willingness to consume insect-based foods in the US. Our results suggested that exposure was the most important factor influencing the perception of entomophagy among study participants.

Willingness to consume insects in the US: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lwt.2018.12.010

To raise the awareness of using insects as food, we hosted an Eating Insects Conference and Tasting Demonstration at SDSU that was open to everyone on campus. The conference featured a keynote from Chef Joseph Yoon, the Executive Director of Brooklyn Bugs, and presentations from SDSU students and myself. In the tasting demonstration, Chef Yoon demonstrated culinary applications of edible insects and prepared a ten-course tasting menu. The students had a lot of fun and delicious bugs. Event flyer

Torched scorpions, cocktail shrimps with black ants, sweet potato noodles with chapulines and crickets, and chocolate mousse with bamboo worms (Photo courtesy: Jaycee Malicdan).

Participation in this event increased students’ willingness to consume insects. This project highlights the importance of collaboration between outreach and education in order to promote insect consumption. By highlighting the focus on the taste, and in creating delicious, crave-worthy dishes, we help to remove the notion that eating insects is disgusting and the primary value of which is only for a greater good such as sustainability.

The project is published in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed: https://doi.org/10.3920/JIFF2020.0057

We thank the support from the SDSU Student Success Fee and the USDA-NIFA-HSI program.


Cultural Importance

 

Insects are considered as ordinary food items in many regions of the world. The sharing of well-established recipes in cultures where insect consumption is normalized can facilitate new product development among cultures where consumption is resisted. We traveled to both rural and urban areas of Oaxaca, Mexico and studied the collection, processing, retailing, and eating practices of various edible insect species. The consumption of insects is deeply rooted in Oaxacan identity and now serves as an economic resource as well as a nutritional resource.

Entomophagy as a cultural identity: https://doi.org/10.1093/aesa/saz018. We thank the support from the USDA-NIFA-HSI program.


Growth Optimization

Mealworm is a favorable candidate for insect rearing due to its high nutritional values and low environmental footprint. Although mealworms can be reared exclusively on wheat bran, their diets are often enriched with additional organic matters such as potato, carrot, and cabbage to provide important nutrients. We fed mealworms fresh plant materials with rich antioxidant phytochemicals and found that the dietary supplementation improved the growth rate of mealworm larvae without changing their survival rate, development time, proximate composition, or antioxidant activities. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9020151

We thank the support from the USDA-NIFA-HSI program.


Safety

Are Tenebrio molitor adults a better food option than larvae due to their higher protein content? Not unless you want to bite through their hard cuticles and taste the stinky, toxic 2-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone. Many aspects in addition to the nutritional value must be taken into consideration when adopting edible insects into our diet. https://doi.org/10.3920/JIFF2019.x003