Should we eat insects?

By Elizabeth Atia

Did you know that over 2 billion people, in more than 80% of the world’s countries, eat insects as a regular part of their diet? 

You do too, quite possibly, and you may not be aware of it. There’s a good chance that your favourite red-coloured sweeties are tinted that way because of the inclusion of carmine, a pigment derived from the cochineal insect. 

Shellac, a food glaze which gives hard shiny candies such as jellybeans their gloss, is derived from a resin secreted by female lac bugs. This resin might even be covering the fruit in your fruit bowl, as its used to make the fruit look glossy and more appealing.

As humans, we evolved as insect-eaters, and in many cultures certain insects can reach prices higher than that of meat. To some, they are a prized delicacy. 

In addition to visual appeal, insects are a sustainable, delicious superfood, requiring minimal resources to produce a substantial quantity of nutrition.

The nutritional value of insects

Insects contain a significant quantity of useable protein, comparable to beef and milk.They’re also useable sources of copper, iron, magnesium, folic acid as well as other vitamins and minerals.

Crickets, for example, contain 21 grams of protein per 100 grams of cricket(compared to beef, which contains 29 grams of protein per 100 grams of beef. Crickets a real so high in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, contain more vitamin B 12 than red meat and more calcium than milk.

The environmental impact of eating insects

Insects emit fewer greenhouse gases compared to traditional livestock, and they take up substantially less space.Individual insect farm compartments can be stacked on top of each other to take up very little volume. Insects also require significantly less water to grow, and they can be fed on the by-products of human and animal waste.

Beef cattle require 8 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of beef, while crickets only need 1.7kg of feed.By comparison, on average, 80% of a cricket is edible, while only 40% of a cow is. The less land, water and feed needed to produce the final product the more environmentally friendly it is considered. 

What do insects taste like?

Caterpillars have a nutty, almost fruity taste, while crickets have a mild, nutty flavour. Cockroaches vary from tasting like fried chicken to having an earthy, nutty flavour, while mealworms don’t have much of a flavour at all.

How do you eat insects?

Insects can be eaten whole, fried, sautéed, boiled or roasted or they can be ground up into a fine powder for use in soups, smoothies or even used in baking. Chocolate covered ants, scorpions or cockroaches, anyone?

Are insects the future of food?

Insects, and entomophagy (the practice of eating insects)may be the key to our future nutrition. It is predicted that the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050, and humans need protein to survive. That protein must come from somewhere.

We just need to move on from the learned ‘disgust’ behaviour we have when we think about eating insects. 

Elizabeth Atia

Mum, daydream adventurer, ex-pat Canadian & quite possibly Britain's most northerly award-winning food blogger. Calls Shetland home.

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