Some believe insects to be the food of the future, but what would that actually involve?
With growing concerns about the climate and the impact that raising animals for meat has on the environment, particularly in light of a growing global population (and current world hunger), people are pursuing many different options for meat or protein sources.
For some, this means becoming vegetarian or vegan. For others it means eating more chicken, grass-fed beef, scrap-fed pigs (it’s really cool, there are farms that feed their pigs expired supermarket food) or other meats that have lower impact on the environment. And for a few, it means pursuing an entirely different food source … insects.
Over 2000 species of insects are consumed by humans in over 130 different countries, mainly by South American and African people. In the Western world, we tend to shy away from the thought of eating “bugs” and many people are reluctant to try or rely on them as a food source at the moment.
But from a health and environmental perspective, there’s no reason not to. They’re a great source of protein, better than many meats or vegetarian protein sources. If you’re iron-deficient, great news! Locusts have more than 3 times as much iron as beef, and the mopane caterpillar has over 5 times as much! They are high in unsaturated fat (the good kind) and contain many important vitamins and minerals.
As for the environment, this is where insects start to really outdo the competition from beef and other meats. Insects have fairly low energy requirements largely because they are cold-blooded (they also produce less methane and other environmental contaminants). This means that they very efficiently convert the food they are fed into edible human food, requiring only 2kg of feed to make 800g of ready-to-consume food, compared to cows that take 16 kg of feed to produce the same amount of beef. Or alternatively, the insects could be farmed as a very effective food source for other animals.
That means that we don’t need to grow as many crops to feed the insects, saving on land, food, water, pesticides (and the problems with increasing resistance to these products). What’s more, they can live off animal waste and other plants that are non-edible for humans and other livestock, so we make better use of our natural resources.
Being such a nutritious and wonderful food, they’re likely to be on the menu for space travel. If we’re settling on Mars and want to begin producing food, a group of crickets will quickly reproduce and establish themselves without requiring a massive input of resource to be carried on the spacecraft. Certainly food for thought!
The big question you probably have is … how do they taste? Different insects taste different of course, and do a little Googling and you’ll find plenty of articles describing different textures and flavours in the world of bugs.
And why not give it a try? After all, you’ve already been consuming bugs for years because they’re on your fruit and veg. And get smushed up into your juice, curry powder, or dates. Not too many of course, there are guidelines on the maximum levels of insect concentration, but don’t think that it’d be a first to nibble a caterpillar!