You might cringe at the thought of eating insects – but for over 2 billion people on the planet, insects are a part of the everyday diet. With the human population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, coupled to the the growing concerns on the demands that modern agriculture may be making on the environment – more of us may need to turn to insects as a source of food.
So why insects? First of all, the nutrient content of insects is quite high. For example, 100g of cricket has comparable amounts of protein as 100g of chicken or pork as well as a higher amount of vitamins and minerals. Another great example are meal worms, which are low in fat and high in fiber.
The small amount of resources needed to make insects is also a huge benefit. For example, 2200 liters of water are needed to produce 1 kg of beef, where 1 kg of insect only requires 1 liter! Insects are less wasteful as well because about 80% of an insect is edible compared to 40% of a cow.
Since most of us may balk at the thought of big bowl of mealworms (although they are present in most of our processed foods), it may be easier to think of them as an alternate form of nutrition for livestock. This is already the case in many countries, where an increasing demand for poultry and beef products requires a high protein feed source. Insects, specifically fly larvae, silkworms, mealworms and grasshoppers, can supplement the diet of poultry and livestock (and even some fish). In areas of the world where sources of protein are already scarce the use of insects to feed may be a way of ensuring that human food sources are not being sacrificed to feed animals.
For some great stats on why insects may be the food of the future – here is a video from ASAPScience:
- ASAP Science: Should We All Be Eating Insects?
- UN Food and Agriculture Report ” Edible Insects – Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security“. A downloadable pdf that contains a number of good resources on the potential for using insects as either a human food source or as animal feed. This is a really great reference document for the classroom.