Maggots, locusts, and other insects may not sound like ingredients for a winning recipe, but scientists are eyeing them for a range of specialty foods.
With the global human population skyrocketing, a team of researchers led by Dr. Louwrens Hoffman of the University of Queensland set out to find an alternative source for protein other than meat.
The answer, according to them, may just be insects.
Insects Can Feed Overpopulated World, Say Researchers
"An overpopulated world is going to struggle to find enough protein unless people are willing to open their minds, and stomachs, to a much broader notion of food," said Hoffman in a news release from University of Queensland. "Would you eat a commercial sausage made from maggots? What about other insect larvae and even whole insects like locusts?"
He added that previous research has shown that Western customers don't mind trying insects if they are included in pre-prepared dishes. However, they would only be willing to try them if the insects are already processed and disguised.
The insects, Hoffman explained, needs to start being incorporated into existing products. One of his students concocted a delicious insect ice cream for this very purpose.
According to the team, the insects and plants offer the biggest potential for the production of sustainable protein.
An Alternative Feed For Livestock
Aside from finding ways to incorporate insects in people's diet, Hoffman's Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation also includes using maggots as a source of protein for chicken production. After all, he pointed out, the poultry industry needs to find more sustainable, ethical, and green protein options than grain crops.
Hoffman and other researchers found that broiler chickens with a diet of up to 15 percent larvae don't have a negative effect on the chicken's production performance, nutrients, breast meat aroma, juiciness, tenderness, and long-chain fatty acid composition.
Insect larvae could even be a product of what's known as "upcycled waste" such as sewage.
A 2013 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations encouraged people to consume insects since it's nutritious. More significantly, insects are more affordable to produce and more sustainable than traditional meat.
Hoffman pointed out that there are other cultures are more familiar with including insects as a part of the regular diet.
"There needs to be a better understanding of the difference between animal feed and human food, and a global reappraisal of what can constitute healthy, nutritional and safe food for all," he explained.