Everything You Need to Know About Farming Edible-Insects


The photo shows three edible insects, crickets, on a piece of a pumpkin.

Edible insects are slowly being introduced as a sustainable protein to dinner tables across Europe, creeping their way into mainstream products such as snacks and burgers. Whilst many have not yet actually eaten insects, it is apparent that people are becoming aware of their benefits, such as their superior nutrition, improvements to gut health, and their minimal impact on our climate.


Whilst knowledge of why you would want to eat insects is increasing, many still have questions about how and where they are sourced from. As trends toward local, high-quality produce grow, it is increasingly important that farms are transparent about their practices and help consumers make better purchasing decisions.


 

Where are Edible Insects Farmed?

Insects are farmed all over the world in various systems depending on the species and local environment. The majority of insects that are available to purchase online in Europe are reared in purpose-built farms that follow strict health and safety practices similar to those used for farming and rearing other animals. All farms are regulated by local food standard authorities, follow HACCP principles, and are regularly inspected to meet these strict guidelines.


Crickets, for example, are kept in large plastic containers with egg cartons which provide them with a complex environment with lots of areas to hideaway. Because they are reared in containers, they can be stacked vertically, meaning that farms have a very low impact on land use and crickets can even be farmed within dense cities.



What Feed Do Insects Eat?

Edible insects are mostly fed on a diet of grains and dry vegetable matter. They can also eat almost everything that we don't — like apple cores, or cereal husks — although not yet in practice, re-utilising these waste streams is something most Western insect farms are trying to do. However, the protein content of the diet of most farmed insects needs to be at least 20% for optimal growth, which puts some constraints on the types of feed that are effective.



What's the Optimal Temperature for Insects?

As insects are ectothermic, they grow best in warmer climates between 26-28 degrees Celsius. This means that in cooler climates, a well-managed heating system is needed for an optimum growth rate. Lower temperatures reduce the rate of growth, while higher temperatures can cause mortality or sterilise the insects (meaning they can no longer reproduce!).


Aerial view of a cricket farm. In the photo, there are industrial buildings with fields in the background.
Image credit: Monkfield Nutrition

How Long is the Growth Period of an Insect?

Crickets, for example, are reared from egg to sub-adult in around 6 weeks and then harvested just as they are turning into adults, so that they do not grow wings, or enlarge their rear legs. It is also thought that the crickets taste much better at this stage.


Insects of the same age are kept in containers, to ensure that an entire container can be harvested at once and then cleaned before starting again. Some adults from each batch are separated into breeding containers. These containers allow the insects to mate and the resulting eggs are used to start new containers for harvest.



How are Edible Insects Killed?

In the West, crickets are usually killed by deep freezing. They are first cooled in a fridge, which puts them to sleep (like hibernation), before being frozen.


Many studies show that insects don't suffer when they are frozen. According to Craig H Eisemann, insects don't show neurological, chemical, and behavioural signs of pain. It has been reported that insects normally walk with injured legs or mate while being eaten by their partner.


 

According to the United Nations FAO, insects are one of the most sustainable protein sources in the world – it takes 5 times less feed to produce 1kg of crickets than it does beef.


On top of that, in Thailand (the biggest insect producer) cricket farming produces two times less CO2 when compared to chicken farming, and uses a quarter of water and much less land.


These numbers speak for themselves and talk to the massive potential insects have to tackle our environment and sustainability issues.


If you'd like to make your diet more sustainable and join the bug-eating revolution, click the link below to get some edible insects ⬇


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Until next time

Leo & Aaron ✌️



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