Entomophagy is the practice of consuming insects as a food source. Spiders, grasshoppers, larvae, scorpions, beetles are widely and commonly consumed in some parts of the world. To some of us, the graphic thought about putting this in our mouths is enough to induce a gag reflex, but to others, it simply a highly nutritious, bacon tasting delicacy waiting to be cooked with sago.
I wasn’t really that excited by the prospect of having insects as a daily food choice. In my impression, insects are only either eaten raw or deep fried, sometimes stir fried. But when I read about an Asian-style locust noodle served with extracted fat of black soldier fly larvae, I somehow can’t wait to try it.
So, why should we contend against house geckos and other animals to eat such disgusting things? Aren’t our normal animal food sources enough for us? Firstly, you wouldn’t need to contend with other animals for insects, seeing that insects are the most common and most abundant species (that could serve as human food) on earth. Secondly, no, it isn’t enough.
Our primary sources of protein – cattle, goats, pigs and chickens require huge amounts of land to develop and sustain, which means that increasing the production of meat from these animals will only accelerate the rate of deforestation and land clearing. The animal waste produced and veterinary medicines used in rearing the animals also cause water and land pollution, even seeping deep into the soil. That’s not all – the agricultural and livestock industry actually generates more greenhouse gases globally than planes, trains, automobiles, and ships combined.
The agricultural and livestock industry actually generates more greenhouse gases globally than planes, trains, automobiles, and ships combined.
With fishes, there are similar problems in fish farming, not to mention the possibility of the total depletion of fish species. Given how poorly managed deforestation, pollution, overfishing and rising global temperatures already are, ramping up these sectors to accommodate the growing global population will probably spell doom. By 2050, it is estimated that the global population will reach 9 billion, and we will need to produce twice as much food as we are currently producing to sustain that number of people.
Insects, on the other hand, are not only abundant, but are more nutritious (if not as nutritious), than our current meat sources, containing a large range and amount of essential nutrition, such as omega 3 fatty acids and many amino acids. For example, 100 grams of caterpillar can contain more protein than 100 grams of beef, even almost as much protein as cod fish, and house flies per gram can contain more thiamine and riboflavin than milk or beef. It is also much more efficient and environmentally friendly to grow insects, requiring less water, less land, less energy. When compared to raising cattle, raising grasshoppers require up to 4 times less feed to produce 1kg of meat, and produce 75% less greenhouse gases.
Edible (and appetising) insect dishes
Here I’ve compiled a few examples of insect dishes that are beside the usual deep fried batter and tempura insects, just because they look potentially delicious.
Insects will very likely be a food for the future, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be forced to give up normal food choices and be forced to swallow caterpillars and cockroaches. In the end the choice of adopting the diet will still fall to us, if the choice still exists.
If you’re still feeling squeamish about eating these adorable freaks, feel free to know that everyone consumes insects and related fragments (and other disgusting things) unknowingly on a regular basis. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have a whole handbook for manufacturers and food producers that provides guidelines for “acceptable fragment levels”. So try and give your meal a good scanning the next time you’re about to dig in, if you’re lucky you might find a pleasant surprise – or two.
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