It might seem a bit gross to you, but it’s estimated that 2 billion people in Asia, Africa, and South America consume insects on a daily basis. In fact, in many cultures, insects are seen as delicacies and there are actually about 2000 species that are edible. Read on to find out why entomophagy (the consumption of insects) is the ideal food item of the future.
It’s said that each year, the population grows with 70 million more people. With the ever-increasing population and 1 billion people living below the poverty line, scientists are continuously looking for new ways to provide food, while still looking after the environment. Cities are becoming bigger and bigger, which means less available land to grow food. This led them to explore a fascinating new food source – insects.
Insects are seen as a sustainable food source. They contain a lot of protein, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for human health. They provide protein (almost the same amount as beef when comparing it by weight), but have much less saturated fats. And some insects, like mealworms, are said to be chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, the same amount as you will find in fish!
Insect rearing also has a smaller impact on the environment. They produce less greenhouse gases, methane, and ammonia, when compared to livestock. Insects are extremely efficient when it comes to converting feed into edible body mass. A cricket needs about 2 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of food. This is very efficient when you consider that cattle need 8kg of feed to produce 1 kg! If we grow insects for food, we will need less land, less water, and less pesticides!
Besides various cultures already eating insects as a part of their normal diet, you’re probably also eating them on a regular basis. One study estimated that an individual consumes about 140 000 insect parts each year. This is because governing bodies that regulate foodstuffs allow a certain number of bug bits to be in your food. For instance, the FDA allows canned fruit juice to contain one maggot per 250 mL. Your curry powder can have up to 100 bug parts for every 25 grams. So while eating insects might sound like something new, your digestive system won’t be surprised!
Most experts agree that the biggest challenge for making insects available in the mainstream market, is consumer acceptance. Unfortunately, there is a certain gross factor attached to insects. But they are sure that once customers can get over this, they will learn to love it!