Human beings have been consuming insects for thousands of years. The practice of eating insects, known as Entomophagy, is common in most parts of Asia, Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand. In fact, more than 80% of the world’s nations continue to eat insects on a regular basis!
However, many Western countries do not include insects in their diet. Scientists suspect this is because Anglo-Saxons originated from colder climates — where insects were less common. Insects became viewed as a pest and not a food source.
It is unfortunate because there are many health and environment benefits obtained from eating edible insects. People in the West are missing out on a delicious and nutritious source of food!
This article will take a look at the kinds of issues that may encourage more Westerners to start eating insects!
Westerners Become More Interested in Sustainable Food Sources
Large animals like cows and pigs require substantial resources to grow. Not only do they eat a lot of food, they require immense quantities of water and land. Livestock is responsible for a significant amount of deforestation around the world and contributes greatly to climate change.
Insects, on the other hand, are plentiful in the natural environment and are less resource intensive. There are forty tons of insects for every human on the planet and more than 1,900 species of insects are edible. They are a plentiful and sustainable source of food that does not take much space to grow.
Insects can even be used to clean up the waste products of food production. For example, mealworms will eat wheat chaff that is typically discarded when wheat is milled. Not only will they use this wasted resource, they will generate a new source of protein for consumption by humans or other animals.
Westerners who are concerned about the environment will gradually realize that traditional sources of protein are harming the planet. They will begin to look for sustainable food sources like edible insects.
Westerners May Become Interested in Eating Healthier Foods
Most insects are very nutritious and a source of high quality protein. Caterpillars, for example, provide more protein and iron than minced beef. Insects are usually high in other nutrients including calcium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. They are also low in cholesterol compared to beef or pork.
Westerners May Become Interested in New Food Flavors
Many Westerners are interested in trying new foods with different flavors. The success of the television series Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern reflects the current interest from Westerners to try new and “unusual” foods.
Insects can provide a wide range of interesting flavors and textures that people in the West have never tried before. Many Westerners are already purchasing edible insects online to test their flavor and texture, before incorporating them into their diet.
Restaurants Have Started Incorporating Insects Into Menus
Some restaurants are already incorporating insects into their menus. The Grub Kitchen in the United Kingdom specializes in insect-orientated meals. There are edible insects for sale in restaurants like Toloache in New York City and Typhoon in Santa Monica, USA.
Westerners Become More Interested in Animal Welfare
There is a very strong animal welfare movement in Western countries. Many citizens have become vegetarians because they object to the way livestock is treated and slaughtered. Eating insects allows people interested in animal welfare to obtain a great source of protein without harming an intelligent mammal like a cow or pig.
More Westerners Want to Be Self-sufficient
Most people in Western societies are highly dependent on the food supply chain. They must go to the supermarket to purchase their food and finding food that was produced locally is difficult.
Because edible insects can be grown in a very small space, it is possible for people to grow their own insects. It is also easy to find delicious edible insects online from a variety of sources. For anyone concerned about food security, eating insects is a fantastic solution.
There May Be a Global Food Shortage in Coming Years
It is estimated that the world’s food supply must double by 2050 to feed the world’s population. Unfortunately, current farming practices in the West have reached maximum efficiency — they cannot improve their production capacity for large livestock.
Edible insects can be produced much more efficiently than large livestock and can help overcome any food shortages that the world may experience. To demonstrate this, consider the amount of feed required to create a kilogram of edible meat. It takes:
• 10 kg or feed to make 1 kg of beef
• 5 kg of feed to make 1 kg of pork
• 2.5 kg of feed to make 1 kg of chicken
• 1.7 kg of feed to make 1 kg of insects
These figures don’t include the cost of the arable land and water that livestock requires. A greater proportion of insect carcasses is edible as well. For example, 80% of a cricket is edible and nutritious, compared to 40% of a cow.
Eating insects can clearly help the world survive a global food shortage. The United Nations has already recognized the economic benefits of eating insects and released a report on it (PDF).
Problems With The World’s Oil Supply
Current farming practices in Western countries rely heavily on fossil fuels. Growing crops necessary to feed both the human population and livestock requires large quantities of non-renewable resources. Because farming edible insects is so efficient, much smaller quantities of oil are required.
There is Less Risk of Infectious Diseases
In recent years, some infectious diseases have spread from livestock to humans. Diseases like bird flu and mad cow disease can endanger the food supply and kill humans. There is a very low risk of diseases being passed between edible insects and humans.