Many people find the very thought of insects disgusting – especially when they’re in your mouth. But have you ever considered that insects could be more nutritious, environmentally friendly, and abundant than most other foods? Should we all be eating insects?
Compare 100 g of crickets, to 100 g of chicken, beef or pork, and you’ll find they have comparable protein content, but crickets are much higher in essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, zinc and iron. Similarly, insects like mealworms are low in fat, and contain large amounts of fibre.
But, that’s not the only reason to incorporate them into your diet. Currently there are 1.53 billion hectares of cropland and 3.38 billion hectares of pastures covering our Earth. Essentially, 38% of the land you see on a map is used for agriculture and farming. But where it takes 200 square meters of land to grow 1 lb of beef, it only takes 15 square meters to grow 1lb of crickets.
Furthermore, by 2025 its expected that 1.8 billion people will live in areas with little to no fresh water. And yet, 70% of our fresh water sources are used in agriculture alone! To produce 1 kg of beef it takes 22,000 litres of water, whereas 1 kg of pork takes 3,500 litres, and 1 kg of chicken takes 2,300 litres. But to make 1 kg of crickets? It only requires 1 litre of water!
This is because insects can become fully hydrated just from the food that they eat. They’re also more digestible – In fact, 80% of a cricket is edible and digestible compared to 50% of a chicken and 40% of cattle. And its not like our mouths have never tasted insects before. For every 100g of spinach, 50 small insects like aphids, thrips and mites are permitted. Peanut butter is allowed to contain roughly 30 insect fragments – such as heads, bodies or legs – per 100g. And even the hops used to make your favourite beer can contain 250 aphids per 100g. Your summer beer may be spiked with a little more bug juice than you anticipated.
So WHY aren’t we eating insects? They’re actually consumed in some parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa. In fact, the capital of Congo has households eating 300 g of caterpillars a week, which is 96 tonnes of caterpillars every year! But much of the Western world is used to screaming in disgust if they find a bug in their salad! This may be because western culinary traditions have spawned out of colder climates with less insects, increased farming and larger animals to eat.
As Europeans began to colonize the world, they contextualized bug eating as savage and primitive because they observed many indigenous people doing it. Little did they know, bugs are actually extremely nutritious! But while the idea of eating insects may literally be hard to swallow, as recipes are created, processing technology evolves and our mindsets adapt, maybe insects will become the superfood of the future.