By now everyone is familiar with Bear Grylls.
He is best known for his television series Man vs. Wild on Animal Planet in which he does things like this (for those too scared to click on the link, Bear scoffs down a collection of bugs for an early-morning breakfast, or as he dubs it a “Bug Burger”).
While this is pretty painful to watch, and even more painful for Bear to endure himself, the idea of eating bugs (or insects) is rapidly becoming a way of life for a large number of people the world over. Moreover, the concept of eating insects – best know as entomophagy – could be making its way to the United States sooner rather than later.
In a recent article in TheScientist, writer Aaron T. Dossey – a biochemist & entomologist – gives his reasoning as to why insects should be in everyone’s diet.
Dossey gives very in-depth, elaborate reasons behind his rather odd assertion, including how as he puts it, “when it comes to producing foods made from insects, the sky’s the limit.”
“…Insects are important for even sole sources of numerous necessary nutrients, such as the eight essential amino acids, vitamin B12, riboflavin, the biologically active form of vitamin A, and several minerals. Insects are particularly high in protein, with levels comparable to beef and milk. House crickets, for example, contain approximately 21 grams of protein per 100 grams of cricket, while ground beef contains about 26 grams per 100 grams of meat and powdered whole milk contains about 26 grams of protein per 100 grams. Insects are also particularly rich in fat, and can thus supply a high caloric contribution to the human diet, particularly in famine-stricken areas of the world.”
The last part of the above statement, in particular the line about how insects can make a “…contribution to the human diet, particularly in famine-stricken areas of the world,” is very key.
An article written by the news site France24, explains in great detail just how much insects are eaten all over the world – particularly in poorer countries.
As the story states:
“Mexicans eat deep-fried grasshoppers. Japanese love wasp cookies. Leafcutter ants are considered a delicacy in Colombia, as are some caterpillars in South Africa. And in Thailand people cook everything from water beetles to bamboo worms. Even though eating insects has often been dismissed as a cultural eccentricity, it might soon become one of the answers to pressing global problems like hunger and environmental destruction.”
According to the article, there are an estimated 1,462 species of edible insects in the world, ranging from beetles, dragonflies and crickets to ant eggs and butterfly larvae. More than 250 species are eaten in Mexico alone.
With that in mind, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), says the projected growth of the world’s population – around 2.3 billion more people by 2050 – will require a significant increase in food production. As a result, demand for livestock is expected to double during the next four decades. However, almost 70% of the land in use for agriculture in the world is for livestock, meaning that the need for more grazing land would bring further deforestation. Agriculture also contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and puts a strain on valuable resources like water. Finding alternative protein sources other than livestock is therefore crucial.
Getting back to the Dossey article for a moment, Dossey furthers the point laid out above by France24 by stating the following in his article:
“As the human population grows, it is ever more important to temper our levels of consumption of the Earth’s dwindling resources. Food reserves are the lowest they’ve been in 40 years and the demand for food will increase dramatically over the coming decades. Climate change, reduced productivity of agricultural lands, overfishing, dwindling freshwater resources, pollution from fertilizers and pesticides, and a host of other factors mean that this population increase will place a disproportionate burden on Earth’s ecosphere. Something has to change.”
So what is being done about this you ask?
Currently the FAO is promoting sustainable cricket farms in Laos, a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west.
Meanwhile, in the United States and Europe, a small but growing number of chefs and foodies are praising the benefits of eating insects and some grocery stores like Sligro in the Netherlands have begun marketing them.
For instance, here are Wasp Cookies that are being sold in Japan:
At the end of the day, who knows when or if entomophagy will catch on in the United States. Something like this may go from a over-the-top “reality” show to a way of life before you know it.