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Insects as Food and Feed

Key aspects/questions

Edible insects constitute high quality food for humans and feed for livestock, poultry and fish in terms of nutrient composition. Producing insects as animal protein source has a number of environmental advantages over livestock production. The research on this topic addresses insects as human food and animal feed from multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary perspectives involving natural and socio-economic sciences and relevant stakeholders.

Common questions addressed:

  • What is the current status of insects as food and feed?

  • How can insects become a future source of proteins for humans, fish and livestock?

  • How are insects harvested and can this be done sustainably?

  • How can insects be farmed (household level and industrial farming)?

  • How to process and preserve insects as food and feed?

  • What are the environmental benefits or disadvantages of using insects as a new protein source in comparison with conventional meat production?

  • What are the challenges of using insects as a feed source for fish, poultry and pigs?

  • What are the food safety and legislative issues involved in using insects as food and feed?

  • How to market insects as food: tackling consumer attitudes and developing marketing strategies.

Several insect species are currently produced globally, but the Black Soldier Fly, Common housefly and Yellow Mealworm have gain a wider attention and serve as models in address the questions mentioned above.


Van Huis, A.; Tomberlin, J.K. (eds.) (2017). Insects as Food and Feed. From Production to Consumption. Wageningen Academic Publishers. ISBN 978-90-8686-296-2; 447 pp. 

Research and Practice for a Better World: Insects for Food and Feed.


The food systems are currently being challenged by the rapidly increasing world population. At present 80% of the world’s arable land is used for livestock and crop production to feed the alarming growth population, though contributing significantly to massive greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, any further expansion will challenge planetary boundaries, as the population continues to rise with increasing demand for food and feed. As competition for land resources continue to grow, alternative measures for enhancing food and nutritional security among the vulnerable as well as affluent consumers become crucially needed. Insects are one of those sources and their acceptance continues to gain momentum worldwide. In recent years, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) has pioneered insect research, which is one of most underutilized protein and food sources in Africa and worldwide, transitioning to more circular, resilient, and efficient insect-based production systems for livestock, crop, and human nutrition, while also interacting with other key systems like energy, trade, environment, and health. icipe has demonstrated that in Africa, ≈ 500 species are consumed by over 300 million people in 45 countries. These insects are rich in crude protein (38.5–72.7%), 14.0–39.7% fat content, high in amino acids, flavonoids and micronutrients (iron, zinc, folic acids, and calcium). Use of insect-based protein feeds offer solutions to one of the key constraints to the fast-growing fish, poultry, and piggery sectors. Insects, particularly desert locust amplifies 20 – 40 folds phytosterols from vegetative diets into highly valuable therapeutic steroids. We have demonstrated that insect oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamin E, thus can serve as low-cost feedstock for bakery, biodiesel, soap, and cosmetic products as well as adjuvants, and surfactants. Chitin/chitosans extracts from insects show suppressive role in multidrug resistant strain of pathogens. In Kenya, replacement of 5 – 50% of fish meal in commercial poultry feed could improve the economy by USD 16-159 million, with potential to create 3,300 – 33,000 new jobs, lift 0.07-0.74 million people out of poverty, making available fish, soya, and maize that can feed 0.47-4.8 million people and transform 0.24-2 million tons of waste in organic frass fertilizer per year. icipe results have informed policy and regulatory framework leading to the development of four new standards on insects for food and feed facilitating accreditation and marketing globally. Our findings suggest that greater investment to promote insect-based products could boost economic sustainability through a “One Health” concept that unites human, animal, plant, and environmental health in Africa and beyond.

Source: BMI webinar: Celebrating the Food Planet Prize – March 25th, 2021

Presented by: Dr. Chrysantus Tanga, Research Scientist, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Nairobi, Kenya.

Insects, Food, Feed: Welcome
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