In year 2050 there will be an estimated 9 billion people and a billion hungry people on the planet. To feed everyone, current food production will need to almost double and we will need 30% more water.
However, we know the current food model is broken and unsustainable and driver of negative economic, environmental, and health consequences. Raising traditional livestock requires large amounts of grain, land and thousands of gallons of clean water. Today 2/3rds of agricultural land is set aside for livestock and livestock generates 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Urgently an alternative to conventional agriculture is needed that is sustainable, healthy and takes into account our environment.
Urgently, an alternative to conventional agriculture is needed that is sustainable, healthy and takes into account our environment.
So, what about insect meat? Insect meat can be a sustainable nutritious solution to feeding the world’s population. Not only to solve hunger but as part of a regular diet in western countries. Insects are the most plentiful form of life on the planet, four-fifths of all known organisms, with more than 1,900 species used as food currently. Insect meat is a staple of the diets for at least two billion people, primarily in Africa, the Pacific and Latin America. Insects are often consumed whole as a delicacy, but can also be ground into flour. This insect flour can be used to make bread, soups, sauces, stews or meat products like nuggets and burgers.
Did you know, In the US, we ingest about 1 pound of insects a year, mixed in with other foods, like flour and rice.. In fact, most insects are not dangerous the percentage insects that are harmful to humans are less than 0.5% of all insects. If you think about it, shrimp, crayfish, lobsters look a lot like insects because they are genetically similar and belong to the group arthropods.
[The PDF whose cover is shown on the left is a very useful guide to insect farming in Thailand]
There are so many benefits of insect meat. Insect meat is incredibly nutritious but varies according to the species, stage of development and how the meat is processed for consumption. Insect meat is rich in protein, amino acids, fat, carbohydrates as well as good source of phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper and zincs. The protein derived from insect meat is comparable to beef on a per mouthful basis, with a 100 grams of insect meat providing 20.6 grams of protein compared to 27 grams of beef.
Raising edible insects would avoid many of the environmental damage seen with conventional livestock. For instance, pigs and humans, both mammals, are similar genetically so that it is easy to transmit diseases. The risk that a pathogen will jump from insect to human is much lower because of the wide physiological difference. Because insects are cold-blooded they require less feed to maintain their body temperatures and are thus very efficient in converting the food they eat into insect meat. Cows require 10 pounds of feed for every 1 pound of body weight gain, but 1 pound of feeds generates six to nine pounds of insect meat. Furthermore, edible insects emit 50 times fewer greenhouse gases and much less ammonia and thus leave a smaller carbon-footprint than conventional livestock.
Cows require 10 pounds of feed for every 1 pound of body weight gain, but 1 pound of feeds generates six to nine pounds of insect meat.
Insects also require little water compared to pigs or cows, some insects can grow to maturity without a single sip of water. Raising insect does not have to be limited to rural areas or even land, which creates opportunities for raising insects in urban areas near the source of consumption.
As far back as 1885, Vincent M. Holt an entomologist posed the idea “Why not eat insects?” Am I advocating we switch to insect meat tomorrow? No but we need to begin researching insect meat as a viable food source. Of course we need to learn from our past mistakes and understand sustainability, safety and environmental and economical impacts. The Dutch government and The European Union has already committed millions of Euros to research and investigate the use of insect meat as a food source. A good first step is to read Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation which has garnered interest all over the world. A consumer friendly web-site Small Stock Foods discusses how to incorporate edible insects as part of a healthy diet.