Feeling hungry? What about some grub…literally! Eating insects has been a cultural tradition throughout history across the globe, it is known in science as, ‘entomophagy’. With the world’s population expected to reach 9million people before 2050, perhaps it’s time for these critters to make their way onto our menu.
Currently, 805 million people worldwide don’t receive adequate nutrition, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. This number is set to rise as our food sources are under increasing pressure to meet the demands of a hungry planet. Agricultural expansion is limited, as resources dwindle and free land becomes scarce. Add to the pot the dramatic effects of agricultural induced climate change, and we are left with a pretty unappetising situation. How will we feed a hungry world?
Perhaps the smallest of creatures can tackle this big problem. Researchers have investigated the potential for rearing edible insects as a sustainable food source. These, ‘mini-livestock’ require less than 10% of land than cattle, and have a superior feed-conversion rate. For example, 10kg of feed given to a cow will give you, (at most), 1kg of edible beef. Although this sounds like a decent steak, the same amount of feed would give you up to 9kgs of crickets!
They also produce significantly less greenhouse gas, waste, and can be reared on the organic material such as food scraps. Turning our compost into high quality nosh.
But insects don’t only offer tasty snacks; these critters are packed with nutrition. 100g of crickets will deliver a knockout punch of 20grams of protein! Eggs, however, contain a wimpy 12grams. But they won’t only help you pump the iron, most insects are superior to beef in their dietary iron content, which may assist the 30% of people that are currently deficient in iron.
Entomophagy could benefit lives worldwide as a sustainable solution to under nutrition and starvation. It may even provide economic potential to people in developing countries, as insect farming is relatively inexpensive, small scale, and high yield. But we still cannot seem to shake the icky feeling we have associated with insects. We look at them as pests, contaminating our food and spreading germs. But insects have been a fundamental food source in many cultures throughout history. Even today you can purchase marinaded silkworm kebabs in Thailand, or salted roast crickets in Taiwan. Can we embrace this here? Many other exotic foods have made the transition the favourites in our western diet. Fifty years ago, very few westerners would have found the thought of eating raw fish wrapped in seaweed to be appealing, but now, you can find sushi franchises across the country. Can the same paradigm shift happen with bugs?
You can find edible insect products at http://www.ediblebugshop.com.au. Hop into it!