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A bowl of flour, a scoop of flour and a cricket.

News story

Survey finds “disgust factor” must be overcome for eating insects to become mainstream 

May 16, 2024

New research at Edge Hill University has confirmed that the “disgust factor” needs to be overcome if people in the UK are to seriously consider eating insects to help protect the planet.

A study led by Dr Lauren McGale, lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill, with Dr Jay Duckworth of Liverpool John Moores University and Maxine Sharps of De Montfort University, found that only 13% of participants would be willing to eat insects regularly; younger people were less likely to try them. 

The research, which explores eating insects as an option in the drive for more sustainable food production, was presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity in Venice this week. 

Psychology researcher Dr Lauren McGale smiles at the camera.

“Insects are a potentially rich source of protein and micro-nutrients and could help provide a solution to the double burden of obesity and under-nutrition. 

“Some insect proteins, such as ground crickets or freeze-dried mealworms, are cheaper and easier to farm, often lower in fat and have a lower environmental impact than traditional livestock.”

Dr Lauren McGale

Food production accounts for up to a quarter of all human greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock is a huge contributor to these emissions and researchers and policymakers are trying to develop and promote more sustainable ways to produce protein. 

One option gaining attention is farming and eating insects, such as crickets, flies, and worms, due to their potential nutritional and environmental advantages over other protein sources.

“It is really common for people to eat insects all over the world, and in some places it is even considered a delicacy but not in Western culture where we typically view it as disgusting or as a novelty food.” 

Co-author Dr Jay Duckworth

Study participants completed a Food Disgust Scale to measure their food sensitivities to more unusual animal parts such as organs for example, or food which is mouldy or has fallen on the floor. People with higher sensitivity were the least likely to try eating insects. 

The survey also revealed that perceptions about the taste and texture of insects was largely negative, as was the expectation of whether they would enjoy eating them. 

Overall, only 13% of respondents said they would be willing to regularly consume insects, compared to 47% who said they would not be willing, and 40% who responded “maybe” or “unsure”.

“The disgust factor associated with eating whole insects could be overcome by incorporating insect flours into processed foods. This has been done successfully with rice products fortified with cricket or locust flours in other parts of the world. 

“But if insects are to be a mainstream part of the Western diet, the disgust factor is one of the most important challenges to be overcome. After all, there may eventually be no choice with climate change and projected global population growth.” 

Co-author Dr Maxine Sharps

The BSc (Hons) Psychology degree at Edge Hill University is accredited by the British Psychological Society and the department, which is dedicated to supporting cutting-edge research, offers courses at undergraduate, Masters and PhD level.

May 16, 2024


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