The Future of Food Part 6: Insects

Is Eating Insects the Future of Sustainability?

The farming and processing of animal livestock continues to destroy nature and release thousands of tones of C02 into the atmosphere. It’s expanding daily, all to feed a growing population with a desire for meat. But did you know that 1,900 species of insects have been identified as suitable food for humans? Although most of us don’t see the consumption of bugs as particularly appetizing, we should not dismiss their benefits.  

The Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, says 20% of the world’s population consumes insects as part of their diet. The FAO also states that edible insects contain very high-quality protein, amino acids, vitamins, calcium, zinc, and iron for humans.

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With biodiversity and sustainability increasingly taking centre stage, we are all searching for alternative food sources that reduce our carbon footprint, and generate positive action on Earth. Proponents of Entomophagy (the eating of insects) stress that crickets only produce 2 grams of CO2 per 1 kilo, which is extremely low compared to cattle, which produce 2850 grams of CO2 per kilo. As a food source, insects can also provide vasts amounts of protein. For example, 1 kilo of termites provides 350 grams of protein to its consumer. Whereas the same amount of beef contains 320 grams of protein. Caterpillars contain 280 grams of protein per kilo, which is 20 grams more than salmon and 263 grams more than tofu.

Currently two billion people across the world eat insects as a daily part of their diet — the majority from Asian and African countries. In the Congolese capital Kinshasa, the average household consumes 300g of caterpillars per week. Insects are cheap, nutritious and according to some supporters, they are “delicious.” In Europe, new EU legislation has recently come into force making it easier for businesses to sell insects as food, paving the way for Western countries to embrace an insect-based diet, which is both for the good of our health, and the health of the planet. In the U.S. the edible insect industry is already registering $20 million annually in sales, there seems to be an opportunity for growth. However, we should reserve some caution. Researchers have find some wildly eaten bugs contain harmful toxins -- stressing that more rigorous safety checks need to be implemented before we make insects a major part of our food system.

With climate change expected to reduce crop yields by more than 25%, there is a pressing need to identify alternative ways to meet Earth’s need for additional food, and the consumption of insects definitely offers an exciting new alternative.