The argument for why eating insects makes sense, both nutritionally and economically.
What’s the difference between a grasshopper and a shrimp? The dipping sauce!
Insects are eaten by more than two billion people in 80% of the world’s nations, and their consumption has been part of our species’ diet for thousands of years, but for many in the West the thought of dining on bugs is just too much to stomach. Why though?
Insects have been part of our species’ diet for millennia
Today, insects are eaten by more than two billion people in 80% of the world’s nations, but contrary to internet rumour, they are not on the menu of a famous burger chain. Not yet, anyway.
When you consider that their consumption has been part of our species’ diet for millennia, it’s clear that we are talking about another source of food here. Despite the history, Western societies have long since eschewed this valuable source of nutrients that could be the solution to the future of our food supply, just as long as we in the West are willing to shake off our aversion to eating these little critters.
Before we reach the middle of this century, planet Earth will have more than nine billion human mouths to feed, and it is not entirely clear that food production can grow at the same frenetic pace. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 26% of the world’s dry land is devoted to pasture for livestock, and 33% of arable land produces crops for livestock. This activity is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, and converting more forestland to open spaces for agriculture would increase the problem of climate change.
There are over 2000 species of edible insects and arachnids
As it stands, the figures just don’t add up. Today, many people believe that it is possible to move on from this difficult situation we face without having to forfeit eating animal products — that it’s simply a matter of changing up the variety of the species we eat.
In the West, people are already accustomed to the consumption of arthropods, but only aquatic ones, such as shrimp/prawns, crabs or lobsters. Meanwhile, up to 3,000 ethnic groups in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania regularly include insects in their diet.
Wageningen University in the Netherlands maintains a list of 2,111 edible species of insects and arachnids, especially beetles, caterpillars, ants, bees, wasps, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets, but also flies, spiders and cockroaches. While extolling the nutritional virtues of these creatures, a vital role has been played by the FAO, which has for years promoted entomophagy as a solution to food insecurity.
First some statistics, then let’s watch some Westerners eat bugs for the first time…
Insects are 69 percent protein by dry weight as compared with 31 percent for chicken breast and 29 percent for sirloin steak; they provide more iron than beef does and nearly as much calcium as milk. They produce one-eightieth the amount of methane that cattle do, and need one-twelfth their feed, based on 100-gram portions of each. And they can reproduce quickly and don’t require acres of grassland to graze.
SHIFTING DIETS FOR A SUSTAINABLE FOOD FUTURE
It is estimated that the world needs to close a 70 percent “food gap” between the crop calories available in 2006 and expected calorie demand in 2050. Read the World Resources Institute's in-depth report on their findings, and form your own plan for the future.