Insect diet may be the solution for a hungry world

Crickets in Thailand. Photo posted to Flickr by Xosé Castro Roigsur.
 
Mexicans eat deep-fried grasshoppers. Japanese love wasp cookies. Leafcutter ants are considered a delicacy in Colombia, as are some caterpillars in South Africa. And in Thailand people cook everything from water beetles to bamboo worms. Even though eating insects has often been dismissed as a cultural eccentricity, it might soon become one of the answers to pressing global problems like hunger and environmental destruction.
 
As disgusting as the idea of eating insects may be for many, the reality is that eating insects, or entomophagy, is practised in more than half the countries in the world. There are an estimated 1,462 species of edible insects in the world, ranging from beetles, dragonflies and crickets to ant eggs and butterfly larvae, according to research by Wageningen University in the Netherlands. More than 250 species are eaten in Mexico alone.
 
But more than tasty snacks, insects could become a protein-rich, green and global source of food, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The FAO says the projected growth of the world’s population – around 2.3 billion more people by 2050 – will require a significant increase in food production. As a result, demand for livestock is expected to double during the next four decades. However, almost 70% of the land in use for agriculture in the world is for livestock, meaning that the need for more grazing land would bring further deforestation. Agriculture also contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and puts a strain on valuable resources like water. Finding alternative protein sources other than livestock is therefore crucial.
 
Insect vendors in Thailand. Photo posted on Flickr by Mitchell Slep. 
 
The FAO and scientists around the world are suggesting that insects could be a serious alternative. To begin with, insects have about the same nutritional value as beef, chicken or fish. They are easily raised in a sustainable way, since they require less land and water than cows, pigs or goats. They also reproduce at a quicker pace than mammals. What's more, people in developing countries can harvest them without owning vast properties of land or making huge financial investments.
 
Currently the FAO is promoting sustainable cricket farms in Laos. Meanwhile, in the United States and Europe, a small but growing number of chefs and foodies are praising the benefits of eating insects and some grocery stores like Sligro in the Netherlands have begun marketing them.
Contributors

“Insects are not just an alternative source of food, but they’re superior in many ways”

Danielle Martin is a foodie and insect lover. She posts gourmet insect recipes on her blog “Girl Meets Bug” and hosts insect cook-offs in museums and schools across the United States.
 
I first encountered edible insects in Mexico, when I bought a packet of ‘chapulines’ [deep-fried grasshoppers.] I remember being suddenly surrounded by a group of children that wanted to eat them right off the table. It really struck me that entomophagy was very much alive.
 
Since eating insects is so unusual in the U.S., people mainly come to my presentations out of curiosity. There is a sensational aspect to it: they basically want to see the girl eating the bugs. But as they are watching and it smells like regular food to them, there is a moment of realization that bugs can be good.
 
Wasp cookies in Japan. Photo posted on Flickr by Eric Gjerde. 
 
People go through a whole process when they eat insects for the first time: first they close their eyes tightly, they put the bug in their mouths and their whole body is on guard. As they start chewing, their eyes open and their face sort of blooms. ‘That wasn’t so bad’, they’ll say. And then they grab another one… Children are more open-minded: they will go through the same process, but they’re more enthusiastic about it.
 
There are some rules about which insects you can eat. I always say, ‘Black, green and brown, swallow it down; red, blue and yellow, leave that fellow’. It’s definitely best to avoid insects with flamboyant colours that proclaim to the rest of nature that they’re not palatable. I personally prefer to eat insects in their larval stage. My favourites are bee larvae, which taste like bacon and mushrooms, and crickets, whose flavour is a cross between almonds and shrimp. On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy eating a walking stick insect because it tasted like leaves. Usually if you eat what they eat, they will probably taste good. For example, waxmoth larvae eat bread and honey, while crickets eat fruits and vegetables.
 
Danielle Martin cooking larvae tacos. 
 
When people try bugs, they usually describe the taste as either nutty, mushroomy, earthy or shrimpy. Eating insects is an acquired taste, but so are many things that have intense and unusual flavours, like mussels or strong cheeses. In the 1800s lobsters and shellfish were not considered delicacies in America, but fed to livestock or ground and used as fertilizer. This shows us that cultural attitudes change. In Cambodia crickets are so popular that they have even had shortages. So I think it is possible for insects to move from snack to main food source.
 
Insects are not just an alternative source of food, but superior to traditional protein sources in many ways. Crickets are a great substitute for beef, offering the same amount of proteins but more iron. Waxmoth larvae are high on omega 3, 6 and 9, traditionally found in fish, but have no mercury. And there is no problem in farming them by the thousands. Unlike raising a cow, farming insects is something anybody can do. It requires little expertise, little expense and little space, making eating bugs guilt-free and highly sustainable. I am raising waxmoth larvae in my closet.
 
In the end, I believe it will be about including something in your diet that is not only good for you, but also tastes great.”
 
Fried insects in Thailand. Photo published by Xosé Castro Roig on Flickr. 
 
Post was written with journalist Andrés Bermúdez Liévano.

Comments

reading the article

Reading “insect diet may be the solution for a hungry world”
For most teenage girls, insects seem disgusting and scary. I was one of them before I read this article. First is always the hard part. Lobster is a food that every American likes. But back in 1800s, lobsters were not considered as delicacies in America. Insects have all the nutrition and protein in need for human. We can change the world; we can change the starvation around the world. Insects are vital for them; they can save people and the Earth. It helps greenhouse effect and puts a strain on valuable resources like water. There is a lot of ways to cook insect. Don’t be afraid and try.

I think,

I think it is a good idea to eat insects as our food, to solve the hunger problem in the world. Hunger problem is a serious problem these days for countries especially like Africa. To solve this, we have to find a food that is unlimited and that can last long. Insect can be a good example for this. Even though lots of people think eating insects is disgusting and gross, for this hungry world, we have to find a way to make people see insect as one of our food sources. Some of the people in this world, that is considering this problem, are making a recipe or a way to cook insects and make it look and taste like a normal food that everyone eats. For example, Japanese people make wasps as a cookie that can be delicious snack for everyone. I think this is a great idea for people to solve this hunger problem.

I, personally, think eating

I, personally, think eating insects is extremely discusting, but get that it may be neccessary for some people's survivial that live in 3rd world countries. Its actually a good idea to use the protein around you.

home work

i think that the bug will be a great food source for many generrations to come. but our time is used to eating cows and pigs but if the first food that the next time trys is bug then it will be normal. bug also contian larges ammounts of protien and vitimen so it will be lie eating normal food.

Insect Diet

This kind of publicizing the health benefits of eating certain species can have unforeseen consequences. A good example of the dire consequences of recommending a diet for human health reasons is the greatly hyped benefits of fish in one's diet. As a result of the demand generated by many years of pushing the eating of fish for its health benefits has led to the near-extinction of many popular fish species. The same thing could happen with insects. Within three or four human generations the demand for insects as food could have a similar impact upon the insect population. There could come a day when the government would have to regulate the taking and eating of many types of insects which seem so numerous nowadays as to be in no danger of extinction (remember the buffalo?). One can foresee a time when to swat a mosquito or fly, or to kill a bedbug, would be against the law. It would be wise to look ahead before generating a demand for insect meat.

Insect Diet

When poeple eat insect that is just not delicios at all. I do not believe that people should just fry an insect and just eat it. That is just gross. I know that people eat insects in there sleep but not just grill or fry an insect. That is just my opinion.
Anna Barbour

I don't think that bugs would

I don't think that bugs would ever become indangered because of how numberous they are. I don't think this is a bad idea a rather good one in fact. I like this idea because they are good for you and you can grow them in your own house. That's so cool, you could have an ant farm in your closet then have a barbacue when they die. I also think they're cool because you can cook them any way you want, though I don't think I would want them in my tacos.

Other choices for food sources

There's one long neglected source of protein -easy to collect -a great source of nutrition, and it has been realtivly left alone for centuries.

Research it -the common jellyfish -filling the seas on nearly 3/4 of the planet, and not a major factor in any key food chain -hence could easily be targeted without upsetted ecological systems.

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