Professors at Virginia Tech’s Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center are working to develop alternative and sustainable food sources in the form of insect protein.
The traditional consumption of insects is gaining momentum. Recent figures estimate that 2,111 species of insects are eaten in about 140 countries. In November 2021, the European Commission authorized Locusta migratoria (migratory locust) as a novel food to be placed on the market. This is the second authorization of an insect as a novel food in Europe – the first being dried yellow mealworms, which was adopted in July 2021.
The consumption of insects is also present in the United States. It has even found its way into the American pastime. At Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, baseball fans can buy chapulines, grilled grasshoppers sprinkled with chili-lime salt seasoning.
Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Magazine (CALS Magazine) recently published an article documenting the progress of faculty testing and consumption of certain insects. The aim of the faculty is to develop alternative and sustainable food sources.
According to Reza Ovissipour, assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Department of Food Science and Technology and specialist at Virginia Cooperative Extension, beyond its nutritional value, eating insects is a potential boost for the economy and the planet.
Ovissipour started the Insect Protein Project in 2018. Currently, there are seven edible insects in their lab without modification, but other insects are being converted into protein and incorporated into bars and cookies of various flavors. The lab’s favorite flavor is barbecue.
Ovissipour says that while the lab doesn’t prefer the taste of insects on their own, he points out that they also don’t like the taste of seafood, beef or poultry on their own either. .
Eat insects for a healthier planet
“Blending our current farming practices with insect-based protein will increase food supply to meet demand while reducing pressure on natural resources,” Ovissipour said. “Eating bugs is good for the Earth. It’s good for the environment and it’s good for your health.”
To make the process even more environmentally friendly, the Ovissipour lab uses agricultural by-products that would otherwise be thrown away to feed insects, and edible insects can be used in animal feed.
According to Ovissipour, new research suggests that this protein source may alleviate several health conditions, including hypertension.
The next step
The research team worked with major companies and insect growers across the country to bring the products to market.
Ovissipour listed some of the insects already on store shelves: such as crickets, silkworms, scorpions, mealworms, sago palms and bedbugs.
“When I go to the grocery store, I have these options, and they’re all good sources of protein. They’re healthy and they’re tasty,” Ovissipour said. insect protein products will soon become an option as well.”
The full article from CALS magazine is available here.
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