The last decade has seen a surge of interest and investment in insects as food and feed. Has the Global North ever before given a novel and neglected food group so much attention? In this chapter we describe how and why multiple sectors - academia, media, industry - have begun to popularise and call for a resurgence in the use of insects as food in Europe and the US, despite tenacious taboos.
We begin with an overview of the history of insect consumption in the Global North; indigenous peoples in regions of both the US and Europe have traditionally consumed insects in some form, but this has diminished, disappeared or even been actively suppressed in recent history.
We describe the beginnings of an active interest in rediscovering insect consumption, beginning with a handful of entomologists who saw the potential of insects as an alternative to meat for reasons of taste, nutrition and environmental impact.
These ideas truly reached the mainstream in 2013 when the FAO published a paper on edible insects. This was immediately picked up by the world’s media, by scientists, and by multiple entrepreneurs.
Since then, the entomophagy movement has gathered pace. Insects have been hailed as a ‘superfood’, are widely available to buy online and are increasingly found on the shelves of some retail outlets.
In this chapter we recount this recent historical trajectory. In doing so we also discuss the shifts in societal attitudes towards insects as food, critical gaps in research, and market opportunities for current and future entrepreneurs in the field.
Edible insects Entomophagy Europe US Food history Entrepreneurship
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Backwell LR, d’Errico F (2001) Evidence of termite foraging by Swartkrans early hominids. Proc Natl Acad Sci 98(4):1358–1363PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Caparros Megido R, Alabi T, Nieus C, Blecker C, Danthine S, Bogaert J, Francis F (2016b) Optimisation of a cheap and residential small-scale production of edible crickets with local by-products as an alternative protein-rich human food source in Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia. J Sci Food Agric 96(2):627–632. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.7133PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
CE No 178/2002 (2002) Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safetyGoogle Scholar
CE No 2015/2283 (2015) Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 of the European parliament and the council of 25 November 2015 on novel foods, amending Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Regulation (EC) No 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1852/2001Google Scholar
CE No 258/97 (1997) Regulation (EC) No 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 1997 concerning novel foods and novel food ingredientsGoogle Scholar
Chapco W, Litzenberger G (2004) A DNA investigation into the mysterious disappearance of the Rocky Mountain grasshopper, mega-pest of the 1800s. Mol Phylogenet Evol 3:1055-7903/$ doi:10.1016/S1055-7903(03)00209-4PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dunkel FV, Payne C (2016) Introduction to edible insects. In: Insects as sustainable food ingredients, Elsevier, USA. pp 1–27Google Scholar
Evans J, Alemu MH, Flore R, Frøst MB, Halloran A, Jensen AB, Payne C (2015) ‘Entomophagy’: an evolving terminology in need of review. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed, 1(4), 293–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goebel T, Hockett B, Adams KD, Rhode D, Graf K (2011) Climate, environment, and humans in North America’s Great Basin during the Younger Dryas, 12,900–11,600 calendar years ago. Quat Int 242(2):479–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hartmann C, Siegrist M (2017) Consumer perception and behaviour regarding sustainable protein consumption: a systematic review. Trends Food Sci Technol 61:11–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Konyole SO, Kinyuru JN, Owuor BO, Kenji GM, Onyango C, Estambale BB et al (2012) Acceptability of Amaranth grain-based nutritious complementary foods with Dagaa fish (Rastrineobola argentea) and edible termites (Macrotermes subhylanus) compared to corn soy blend plus among young children/mothers dyads in Western Kenya. J Food Res 1(3):111. https://doi.org/10.5539/jfr.v1n3p111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krahl T, Fuhrmann H, Dimassi S (2016) Coloration of cereal-based products. In: Handbook on natural pigments in food and beverages, Woodhead Publishing, UK. pp 227–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lesnik JJ (2018) Edible insects and human evolution. University Press of Florida, FL, USA.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lockwood JA, DeBrey LD (1990) A solution for the sudden and unexplained extinction of the Rocky Mountain grasshopper (Orthoptera: Acrididae). Environ Entomol 19(5):1194–1205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lundy ME, Parrella MP (2015) Crickets are not a free lunch: protein capture from scalable organic side-streams via high-density populations of Acheta domesticus. PLoS One 10(4):1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Madsen DB (1989) A grasshopper in every pot. Nat Hist 89(July):22–25Google Scholar
Manditsera FA, Luning PA, Vincenzo F, Catriona ML (2018) The contribution of wild harvested edible insects (Eulepida mashona and Henicus whellani) to nutrition security in Zimbabwe. J Food Compos Anal, 75:17-25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Manunza L (2018) Casu Marzu: A Gastronomic Genealogy. In Edible Insects in Sustainable Food Systems (pp. 139–145). Springer, Cham.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oonincx DG, Van Broekhoven S, Van Huis A, Van Loon JJ (2015a) Feed conversion, survival and development, and composition of four insect species on diets composed of food by-products. PLoS One 10(12):1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Payne CLR, Scarborough P, Rayner M, Nonaka K (2016) A systematic review of nutrient composition data available for twelve commercially available edible insects, and comparison with reference values. Trends Food Sci Technol 47(March 2016):69–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
St-Hilaire S, Cranfill K, McGuire MA, Mosley EE, Tomberlin JK, Newton L, Irving S (2007) Fish offal recycling by the black soldier fly produces a foodstuff high in omega-3 fatty acids. J World 38(2):309–313Google Scholar
Sutton MQ (1995) Archaeological aspects of insect use. J Archaeol Method Theory 2(3):253–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tomberlin JK, Zheng L, van Huis A (2018) Insects to feed the world conference 2018. J Insects Food Feed 4(2):75–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Huis A (2003) Insects as food in sub-Saharan Africa. Int J Trop Insect Sci 23(3):163–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Huis A, van Itterbeeck J, Klunder H, Mertens E et al (2013) Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.Google Scholar