‘But Why?’, I hear you cry.
On a nutritional level, insects are a great source of protein. Caterpillars, for example, contain more protein, gram for gram, than their minced beef alternative. They also offer unique and interesting flavours and textures that are increasingly being consumed with gusto in your own back yard (pardon the pun).
One London restaurant has already added fried grasshoppers, a popular delicacy in Mexico, to their menu. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you could pop along to Harvey Nichols who have been exclusive UK stockists of food brand Edible Arrangements for a number of years. The range includes such delicacies as Thai Curry Crickets, Oven Baked Tarantula, BBQ Worm Crisps and Scorpion Lollies and recent figures show they are becoming increasingly popular with customers.
Beyond nutritional value, some of the biggest benefits to eating insects are for the environment. Insects are much easier to sustain than conventional livestock as they consume fewer resources (it takes over 11 thousand litres of water to produce one pound of beef, for example) and thrive on agricultural waste that is otherwise unsuitable for human or animal consumption, it is therefore much easier to farm them on a large scale and with a smaller environmental impact.
There’s also plenty to go round. The average human consumes 25 tons of food over the average lifespan. With 40 tons of insects to every human, there is no reason that any human being should go without food. Good, nutritious food at that. Insects could well be the answer to famine in developing nations, particularly as they can be such a rich source of fat.
However, whilst consuming insects has all the makings of a highly sustainable agricultural model, the bottom line is that even westerners may someday be unable to afford the luxury of choice. Insects are fast becoming an integral part of the human diet as overpopulation looms large and conventional meat sources struggle to keep up with demand. It is estimated that Insects will become a more popular foodstuff in the UK over the coming decades as a result.
So, perhaps it might be time to start experimenting. Perhaps a little homemade mealworm pizza à la Heston Blumenthal?
But, before you send your children into the wilds of your garden to find dinner, there are a few important things to remember:
- Not just any old bug will do. Wild/Garden bugs are likely to have come into contact with toxic pesticides. If you are interested in trying to incorporate insects into your diet you can try your local pet food store.
- Avoid anything overly bright, as bright colours often indicate that an insect is poisonous. This is to ward off predators.
- Cook the insects before eating as this will break down any toxins.
At present there are a total of 1,417 species of insects recorded as being safe for human consumption. The most popular of these include: Grasshoppers, Crickets, Beetles, Cockroaches and Dragonflies.