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Study finds people who enjoy sushi are more open to eating insects

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2019-03-13  Views: 11
Core Tip: People who frequently consume sushi are more open to the idea of adding insects to their diets, according to a new study from La Trobe University and the University of Pennsylvania, US.
People who frequently consume sushi are more open to the idea of adding insects to their diets, according to a new study from La Trobe University and the University of Pennsylvania, US. The study followed 476 participants, 275 from the US and 201 from India. Notably, the US sample was most inclined to consume insects, with 43 percent of participants saying they would be willing to do so.

Dr. Matthew Ruby, Lecturer in Psychology at La Trobe University and study co-author, notes that sushi could be considered a “gateway food” to insects.

“Until relatively recently, the idea of trying sushi – let alone having it become a mainstream menu item – was often thought of with disgust in many societies,” Dr. Ruby says. “Just like eating sushi, eating insects will take some getting used to.”

“It appears the more open you are to ‘exotic’ foods, the more willing you'll be to taste-test a grasshopper, or an ant, or even a spider,” he notes.

The findings include:

Eighty-two percent of American respondents said they would consider eating insects in general, compared to 34 percent of Indian respondents. Eighty percent of Americans respondents said they would consider eating foods containing whole insects, compared to 48 percent of Indian respondents.

Men were more willing than women to eat insects, both whole and incorporated into other foods.

Roughly 26 percent of Indian respondents felt that eating insects violated a protected value (meaning, they would not eat insects no matter how great the benefits, nor how minor the risks), compared to just 4 percent of American respondents.

Sixty-five percent of American respondents agreed that rearing insects as food generates less pollution and greenhouse gas than rearing conventional livestock, compared to 28 percent of Indian respondents.

Twenty-eight percent of Indian respondents and 65 percent of American respondents were willing to try food containing at least 1 percent insect flour.

“Insect flour can be found as a protein-rich substitute for some standard grain flours in products like crackers, biscuits and protein bars,” says co-author Paul Rozin, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. “This could be another way to introduce insects into your diet if the idea of crunching into a whole bug doesn't appeal to you.”

In this space, a Finnish study revealed last month that vegetarians would consider eating insects, but vegans were not as willing.

The study comes at a time when insect protein is gaining traction as an alternative food source since the world population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. With over 2,000 edible insect species throughout the world, raising insects for food may prove an attractive option in a bid to tackle food shortages.

Raising insects for food is typically much more sustainable than many commonly consumed animals in terms of food efficiency, water use, required farming space and greenhouse gas emissions.

In January 2019, FoodIngredientsFirst reported on an opinion article published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, whereby researchers explored unanswered questions around insect rearing and environmental impacts, but overall they remain optimistic that suppliers will rise to the challenge.

“As the global demand for protein grows, insect mass-rearing can play an important role in the future of food,” author Åsa Berggren, a Conservation Biologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, said at the time.

Trends towards healthy eating, “surfing” on new trends and hybrid meat products are among the key drivers for significantly accelerated traction within the European insect protein space. According to Christophe Derrien, Secretary General of the International Platform of Insects for Food & Feed (IPIFF), increasing research and development in this field in scientific, technological and, most importantly, regulatory advancements are further supported by positive media coverage and greater availability of insect products.

With food and beverage companies becoming increasingly conscious of sustainability issues, insect protein presents for an appealing alternative. French agri-tech innovator Ÿnsect, which specializes in turning farmed insects into ingredients for fish feed, pet food and plant fertilizers, raised US$125 million in a Series C round of funding to build the “world’s biggest insect farm.” The company also plans to develop the company’s international and North American markets to keep pace with the increasing demand for insect protein as part of a sustainable food system.

Moreover, Bühler Insect Technology Solutions (BITS) recently combined its expertise with Alfa Laval, a leader in heat transfer, separation and fluid handling, to offer advanced modular insect-plant solutions to the booming and fast-growing insect feed industry. BITS provides modular solutions for the industrial-scale transformation of organic residues into quality ingredients harnessing the power of insects.

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