27 September 2023

Why fly larvae should be on the menu

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Louw Hoffman* says that instead of complaining if someone finds a fly in their soup, they should forget the soup and eat the fly.

It may seem a little hard to swallow, but the larvae of a waste-eating fly could become a new alternative protein source for humans.

The black soldier fly’s larvae, which are already utilised for animal feed, are a high quality protein.

Just like meat, the larvae contain all the nutrients humans need for health.

The larvae are richer in zinc and iron than lean meat, and their calcium content is as high as that of milk.

The nutritional composition of the larvae makes them an interesting contender as a meat alternative, and to date they have demonstrated their potential to partially replace meat in burger patties and Vienna sausages.

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that two billion people around the world already eat insects regularly as part of their diet.

The biggest factor that prevents fly proteins being used in our food supply is Western consumers’ acceptance of insects as food.

We will eat pea or oat milk, even lab-grown meats, but insects just aren’t on Western menus.

I have been studying the hurdles that need to be overcome before flies can directly enter the human food supply chain.

There’s a lot of research that’s already been done on black soldier fly larvae as a feed for livestock, but we need to ensure we address safety issues before it can get legs as a human food.

This includes understanding the different nutritional profiles of the fly at key stages of its growth, and the best ways to process the fly to preserve its nutritional value.

While the fly can clean up toxic waste including heavy metals, it’s also recommended flies bred for human food be fed a clean source of organic waste.

In addition to the nutrition profile, there are strong environmental reasons for humans to eat fly larvae.

It’s estimated that less than half a hectare of black soldier fly larvae can produce more protein than cattle grazing on around 1,200 hectares, or 52 hectares of soybeans.

If you care about the environment, then you should consider and be willing to eat insect protein.

*Louw Hoffman is Professor of Meat Science at the Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Queensland.

This article first appeared on the University of Queensland news website.

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