Protein and sustainability - the potential of insects

Harry Aiking*, Joop de Boer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this research it is aimed to outline the role and potential contribution of insects towards food security and sustainability from a multidisciplinary perspective. First, ecological, economic and social aspects of food sustainability and food security are identified by prioritising the environmental impacts associated with food production and consumption. Subsequently, it is argued how protein supply is underlying and linking the top-3 of anthropogenic impacts, i.e. (1) biodiversity loss; (2) nitrogen cycle acceleration; and (3) carbon cycle acceleration (resulting in climate change). In order to address the production and consumption inefficiencies inherent to the current food system a ranked list of more sustainable options is proposed, based on their order of magnitude. Versatile side-stream valorisation returning losses to the food chain is deemed a unique selling point of insects. In addition to quantitative impacts, however, qualitative aspects relating to feasibility also play an important part. In that respect, just a minority of Western consumers are inclined to adopt insects as food. As an illustration, consumer acceptance of edible insects as attractive food items are quantified at the level of diets, dishes and ingredients (for the Netherlands). From the perspective of sustainability, the potential of insects is reflected upon. Meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals requires a relatively rapid transition towards a circular economy. In this light, insects are undeniably useful for food, feed, and other purposes. Health may be key to entice consumers to drop their conservative attitudes and progress towards a diet transition. However, an integrated, multidisciplinary approach including all stakeholders remains a prerequisite
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-7
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Insects as Food and Feed
Issue number1
Early online date30 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Special issue: Insects as food in Europe


  • sustainability


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