By Joe La Delfa.
9 billion people by 2050. A significant statistic such as this raises some questions, a fundamental one being, “what will we eat?” The answer is food, right? Well as you have probably heard before, factors such as population, overfishing, agricultural land scarcity and climate change are not only going to change demand for food, but change the definition of “food” itself. We’re talking about entomophogy, using insects as a source of food. Unfortunately the word itself has too many syllables to fit into a certain song by Simply Red, but insects are eaten in 80% of nations by choice and not just when money’s to tight to mention. They are often considered a delicacy! So I’ll ask you to put your initial reactions aside for a moment, as we take a look at the rational reasons behind the phenomenon that is taking the world by swarm.
They produce more for less. Insects are 12 times more efficient at converting feed into protein; the feed itself can be taken from organic waste streams. All while using a significantly less amount of land and producing a significantly LESS amount of greenhouse gas (roughly 10 times less).
They are healthy! High in protein, good fats, vitamins, mineral and fibre, with calcium to boot.
Social enterprise potential. Insects can be farmed at any scale, giving rise to opportunities for developing and emerging countries to rear insects as mini livestock. At the bottom of the pyramid, landless dwellers can earn income through something like this grow your own locust kit , and if the demand is there, farmers can upscale these operations to no end.
So it’s plain to see that these little creatures are pretty awesome, so where does our disgust for all things 6 legged come from? A recently published report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations advocating entomophogy explains. At the dawn agriculture saw 14 animals that provided not only food but warmth, milk products, leather, wool, plough traction and means of transport, it was the sheer utility of these animals that made them not only the preferred option but the essential one. Insects just could not provide these necessities; not to mention the swarms of insects that wiped out crops year in and year out, cementing their reputation as a pest in western societies.
Along with the population boom is the rise of the world’s middle classes, the CSIRO is predicting billions of people to transition out of poverty in Asia, South America and Africa in the coming years. What is unknown here is whether or not these people will continue to incorporate insects in their diet or not. For every story you hear of a new urban development leaving entomophogy behind, you hear one of an insect eating NGO in middle America.
Regardless of who influences who, thanks to the wonders of technology entomophogy can cater for all, with a wide range of processing already being undertaken in industry. Such as milling into flour, resulting in the Cricket protein bar, extracting proteins, fats vitamin and minerals are also possible, pertaining to insect foods that don’t even resemble insects. These examples demonstrate that by further removing the consumer from the thought of eating insects the less of a social barrier remains when introducing insects into a regular diet.
Whatever the form, insects will be a viable source of food in the future; they are efficient to grow, have a high nutrient value and can generate income for the lower classes. History has given the insect a bad rap, but with the help of education, technology and a good cook book many believe that this can change. Perhaps someone should give Simply Red a call, see if he can rejig that chorus for a good cause.