Children are to be fed insects as part of a plan to get a new generation to switch from meat to insects and persuade their parents to follow suit.
Pupils at four Welsh primary schools will be offered insects to eat as part of a project to gauge children’s appetites for “alternative proteins” such as crickets, grasshoppers, silkworms, locust, and mealworms.
Insects for school kids as an eco-friendly meat alternative. The researchers hope their findings will provide clues as to how best to educate children about the environmental and nutritional benefits of edible insects across the UK.
They may possibly go abroad, and in turn, their parents, as the world seeks to help the environment by reducing meat consumption.
The project, which begins this week, will use surveys, workshops, interviews, and focus groups to explore young people’s knowledge and experiences of alternative proteins.
The researchers have partnered with teachers:
For this, the researchers have partnered with teachers and hope that many of the five- to 11-year-olds in the study will be willing to try some edible insects to see how they find them.
“We want children to think of alternative proteins as real things for now, rather than just foods for the future, so testing some of these foods is critical to the research,” said Christopher Bear, from Cardiff University.
“Although edible insects are not, for now, widely sold in the UK, they are part of the diet of around 2 billion people worldwide. Much of this is found in parts of the world where they are part of long-standing culinary traditions. And they are becoming more popular in other places,” he said.
A 2020 study estimated that 9 million European consumers had eaten insects in 2019 and forecast this to rise to 390 million by 2030. It is according to the International Platform for Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF), the insect production charity.
They have been promoted by organizations such as the United Nations for their potential environmental and nutritional benefits, and as a potential contributor to global food security, Dr. Bear noted.
Carl Evans, the headmaster of Roch Community Primary School in Pembrokeshire, which is involved in the project, said: ‘There is an important connection between our local community, food production, and the wider global issues surrounding sustainable development.
“These topics are important to children, but also difficult to understand and can often be confusing to them,” he added.
Verity Jones, from the University of the West of England in Bristol and involved in the study, has previous experience with children and edible insects and is confident they can be a powerful force in changing their parents’ behavior on this matter.
Insects find their way into many of the foods we eat on a daily basis:
“A lot of kids have nuisance power, so in some cases, they can be great dietary change agents within the family,” he said. Further, he added that insects find their way into many of the foods we eat on a daily basis.
“Everyone eats bugs every day: there are more than 30 parts of bugs in every 100g of chocolate…bread, fruit juices, hops…you name it, you’re eating bugs,” he said.
“And I discovered that once children know that insects are already, by the very nature of the processing, in many of the foods that we eat. They are confident that they will not get sick from eating them, they are very open to trying,” he said, although in most cases they are much happier eating ground than whole insects.
“All the research, for adults and children, indicates that whole insects are unpleasant, but ground insects in food are very acceptable. Nobody likes the idea of having a piece of crunchy wing or an antenna between their teeth.
But, in fact, children were more likely to choose foods containing edible insects over regular meat products in a matter of sustainable credentials if given the choice,” he said.
Kids can be apprehensive, just like adults, but my previous research found that it all depends on preparation and prior knowledge.
If kids know where they’re from, that they won’t get sick, that they’re actually healthy, and that they’re already in a lot of foods (albeit in small amounts), this lowers the yuk factor and normalizes it a bit more.
Boys are more likely to be willing to try new foods first:
“My research indicates, as with adults, that boys are more likely to be willing to try new foods first, but overall both boys and girls seem to be willing to try to the same extent,” she said.
Many edible insects are rich in protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients and have a much lower environmental impact per kilogram than meat.
Mealworms, for example, produce less than 1 percent of the greenhouse gases of cows and about 10 percent of the smaller carbon footprint of a pig. Domestic crickets pollute even less, according to a study in the journal PLoS ONE.
Another study, published in the journal Cleaner Production, found that insect farms emit 75% less carbon and use half the water per kg than poultry farms.
UK consumers have shown increased demand for healthy and sustainable diets, with a focus on reducing traditional meat products such as beef and chicken.
A recent study indication:
A recent study by the Finder research group found that more than seven million adults in the UK follow a meat-free diet and a further six million intend to switch to vegetarian or vegan diets.
Meatless diets were more prevalent among people ages 18 to 23. Most of the existing studies on attitudes towards alternative proteins focus on adults; this new research fills an important gap by shifting attention to children as important and influential consumers.
Edible insects have become much harder to come by in the UK in the last two years after the EU introduced food regulations classifying them as a “novel food”, meaning they had to undergo new safety checks. even in the UK.
When the UK officially left the EU in early 2020, no transition had been agreed upon for edible insects, limiting sales to a handful of online retailers like EatGrub.
However, a Food Standards Agency (FSA) decision next month is expected to allow them to be marketed in supermarkets and other retailers across the UK temporarily, with full approval expected next year.
Michael Wight, FSA’s head of food safety policy, said in March: “We are aware that edible insects, as part of the alternative protein market, can offer benefits, particularly to the environment.”
“We are working hard to support and advise companies and trade bodies so they can provide high-quality dossiers and evidence as part of their novel food applications.
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