When Sustainability Meets Entomophagy

Think back to your last sushi date? Did you know that sushi was not always considered palatable by the Western world?! Only recently did sushi become one the trendiest food items on the menu. Remember that overpriced lobster dish? Lobster was also once considered unpalatable and only fed to prisoners at times of food shortages. Now lobster is also considered a delicacy in the Western culture. Considering these examples, it begs the question: Are you ready for the next biggest food trend?

Before we get into that, let’s quickly have a look at the current state of affairs:

So we know that the world’s population is increasing at an exponential rate, which will result in a decrease in the availability of land for agricultural developments.  The world will then struggle to produce enough food to keep up with the growing demand for food. This has led researchers and consumers alike running into a headlong panic to explore alternative resources.  

To bring this problem closer to home, more than half of the world’s predicted population growth is going to be in Africa. As if our continent isn’t struggling enough to produce sufficient quantities of food already?! To make this problem even bigger, the cost of animal farming has increased substantially over the years making livestock which was once an affordable protein source almost impossible to purchase across the economic bracket. This all means that we need more affordable and sustainable protein sources.

With these impending questions surrounding sustainable food production to meet the inevitable growing demand for food, we sit with a substantial problem.

The solution: Consuming insects!

Wait what?! Eating insects?!?

Yes, you read correctly!! Entomophagy is the practise of eating insects, and it dates back to the dawn of human evolution. Would you believe me if I told you that over 2037 different insect species are eaten globally and feed over 2 billion people worldwide. That’s 30% of the world’s population that consumes insects!!!

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Right now you might think that consuming insects are a controversial topic but before you completely turn your nose up this idea, take a look at just a few advantages of farming and consuming insects:

  1. Insects have a high feed conversion efficiency, which basically means they can convert their food into body mass (ie protein) a lot faster than animals. IMPLICATION: This significance of this is that insects require much less food to produce a Kg of protein than animals.
  2. Insects also have a fast growth rate, reaching maturity in a significantly shorter time than livestock. IMPLICATION: Insects are ready to harvest very soon after hatching, making them more efficient to rear than livestock.
  3. Insects produce a large amount of offspring at a time. IMPLICATION: More offspring means faster colony growth, which means more protein!!!!
  4. Now here is where it gets really exciting and what really appeals to the ‘Green’ people of the world: Some insect species grow on agricultural waste matter. Why does that excite us so much? Well imagine having an excellent protein source that has been entirely raised on food by-products, and inedible vegetable matter? Imagine the amount of wastage that would be converted into edible protein? This is recycling at its best!!
  5. So imagine this incredibly sustainable food source that also has an incredible nutritional profile?! Research has repeatedly shown that insects have an excellent good nutritional profile:
    • Insect have protein contents that are generally comparable to that of animal protein
    • But what is the point of having protein without a good amino acid profile? Insects have been found to have excellent amino acid profiles.
    • Insects are also a good source of energy.
    • Insects have a good range of fatty acids.
    • And get this: Insects have a high content of minerals, with especially high iron and zinc contents.  

I know what you are thinking! How are insects not already the next super food?

With all the environmental and nutritional benefits that insects present why are Western consumers still so averse to incorporating insects into their diet?

Now we are not suggesting you should trade in your roast gammon on Christmas day for an exotic insect dish.

Globally there needs to be a strong drive to understand how Western consumers feel about eating insects. Have your say, and tell researchers what you think about the concept in this global survey:

For all those nerds out there who are interested in the finer details, here are the articles behind this blog post:

The infamous American biologist, Edward O Wilson, once said ‘If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago.  If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos’. Dramatic as this may sound, this statement emphasizes just how vital insects are to our daily existence. And with the world’s human population predicted to increase from 7.2 billion to 9.6 billion people by 2050, there is the possibility that insects are about to become even more integral to our survival.

 

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