Insects for food – yuk or maybe not?


August 19th, 2014

I’m just back from  Zimbabwe, in Gwanda I met people worried about how they will feed their family –  the rains have failed or at best been poor – so the harvest is likely to be inadequate. Many people will spend months hungry and poorly nourished.

Yesterday was Food Revolution Day – and while I agree with Jamie Oliver that educating kids about the food they eat is vital, it wont end global hunger. With a rising global population, increased demand for meat and agricultural production hit by climate change how we all  access adequate food must be part of a global debate. We may also need to change the way we think.

A couple of months ago now I read an article in the Guardian which argued that as we head for 9 million people on our planet we need to find a new approach to food. One of the ideas mooted alongside reducing waste and 3D printed food, was the widespread consumption of insects. My immediate reaction was ‘hurray for waste reduction’,  distrust of printed foods (why distance ourselves even further from nature) and ‘yuk!’ to insects.

While I’ve been offered Mopane Worms in South Africa and a much recommended snack of fried Locusts in The Philippines, I’ve never been tempted – I don’t even like prawns. But maybe on reflection I’m just not open-minded enough in my choice of food.

Food chainThe latest edition of Practical Action Publishing’s journal ‘Food Chain’  focuses on insects for food and feed. It points out that

  • Insects are traditionally consumed by more than 2 billion people worldwide;
  • There’s great diversity – about 2,000 species known to be edible;
  • Environmentally there are significant benefits over eating meat (lower emissions of greenhouse gases, low requirement for land and water etc.);
  • There is a huge opportunity for insects as animal and poultry feed (In the EU this is currently hindered by legislation);
  • They are good for you – termites for example are particularly rich in oleic acids, the same type of fat found in olive oil
  • The ‘Yuk’ factor is possible to overcome – think of worms’ lava in Tequila and Beer.

Turns out Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN, is a big fan! “When you consider the imprint of cattle and other stock on the environment you are better off with insects. Insects have a very good conversion rate from feed to meat. There is no way that we can sustain conventional livestock production environmentally if we want to meet the needs of the growing human population”.

Rather than encouraging the unsustainable growth of a Western type diet shouldnt we be looking at more traditional foods? If 2 billion people around the world eat insects – and appear to like them – they are good for our planet, and can be good for us – Surely the question is why wouldnt we try them?

So if you have a taste for insects I recommend ‘The Insect Cookbook – Food for a Sustainable Planet’ published by Columbia. Great recipes including Bitterbug Bites, Bugitos and Buffalo Worm Chocolate Cupcakes.

I don’t think I’m ready for a cricket lollipop yet but if the rather indistinct protein in say my occasional ready meal was made of insect – maybe I wouldn’t mind (or more likely I wouldn’t think about it). Good for people and the environment – what is there to dislike?     insect lolipop

Insects could be the food of the future.

 

 

One response to “Insects for food – yuk or maybe not?”

  1. Margaret Says:

    Crowd sourcing for an insect based protein bar using crickets as the flour. A revolution in insects for food. Certainly very mainstream marketing https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/781409241/crobar-all-natural-protein-bar-made-with-cricket-f/updates

    Like the idea but not rushing out to buy one! But then I wouldn’t eat a beef bar either!

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