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Sustainable farming of the mealworm Tenebrio molitor for the production of food and feed

The farming of edible insects is an alternative strategy for the production of protein-rich food and feed with a low ecological footprint. The industrial production of insect-derived protein is more cost-effective and energy-efficient than livestock farming or aquaculture. The mealworm Tenebrio molitor is economically among the most important species used for the large-scale conversion of plant biomass into protein. Here, we review the mass rearing of this species and its conversion into food and feed, focusing on challenges such as the contamination of food/feed products with bacteria from the insect gut and the risk of rapidly spreading pathogens and parasites. We propose solutions to prevent the outbreak of infections among farmed insects without reliance on antibiotics. Transgenerational immune priming and probiotic bacteria may provide alternative strategies for sustainable insect farming.

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