A university research team in South Korea has found that insects can add meat-like flavours to food, The Guardian wrote.

Researchers in the study conducted at Wonkwang University, found that when mealworms – the larval form of the yellow mealworm beetle – were cooked with sugar, a range of meat-like and savoury flavours were released, the 24 August report said.

“Insects are a nutritious and healthy food source with high amounts of fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, fibre and high-quality protein, which is like that of meat,” researcher In Hee Cho, who led the study, was quoted as saying.

“Many consumers… like and need animal protein in their diet. However, traditional livestock farming produces more greenhouse gas emissions than cars do. On the other hand, insect farming requires just a fraction of the land, water and feed in comparison to traditional livestock farming.”

Although edible insects, such as mealworms and crickets, were considered as “superfoods” by communities in Asia, Africa and South America, Cho said European and North American consumers were generally more reluctant to eat insects, despite the recent introduction of insect options by several restaurants and supermarkets.

Researchers hoped that the use of mealworms as a meat-like flavouring could help bridge this gap, the report said.

The team found that different cooking processes produced varied results, with steamed mealworms giving off a sweetcorn-like aroma, while roasted and deep-fried versions had more of a similarity with shrimp, the report said.

A panel of volunteers conducted “sniff” tests to judge the most meat-like favours.

The results of the study were due to be presented to the American Chemical Society at the end of August.

With global food production responsible for about a third of all greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions and grazing and feeding livestock consuming about 80% of farmland, the United Nation’s (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization has said that insects – which can be raised in huge numbers in small spaces – are a potentially valuable protein source to feed a growing global population that is expected to surpass 9bn people by 2050.