I’m sure you have read somewhere in the news by now that the United Nations is suggesting that insects could be the next big foodsource.  Containing a nutritious mix of protein, minerals and good fats, it is a wonder more people don’t eat insects really.  Apparently, they can be eaten whole, ground into a powder or paste or incorporated into other foods, yet they are something that we in the West don’t quite have the stomach for, for the moment at least – one person interviewed by our local New Zealand news commented that he ‘would rather starve’. 

It is certainly ‘food for thought’ on the various food sources that we don’t even tap into that are all around us – especially given that the media often postulates on overpopulation and a lack of food (although I would argue that food circulation and wastage is often the real problem rather than a lack of production).

I admit that I have tried insects while touring around markets in Thailand for the novelty factor rather than their appeal.  I can’t remember the types, but cricket was definitely one of them and I don’t recall much flavour.  The local Thai people seemed to eat them out of paper bags in the same way I would eat fries.  There was certainly no disgust.  It may turn out that Marcus and I are soon onto to something with our cricket infested garden in the new home we just bought (which as an aside attracts the most gorgeous birds to compete for our potential food source!).

The book just released by the United Nations, Edible Insects: future prospects for food and feed security, discusses the benefits that insect farming could potentially have on the environment and on the supply of food worldwide.  The United Nations News Centre reports:

Although they are not staples of Western cuisine, insects currently supplement the diets of some 2 billion people and have always been part of human diets in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Of the 1 million known insect species, 1900 are consumed by humans. Some of the most consumed insects include beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets.

“If we think about edible insects, there’s a huge potential that has essentially not been tapped yet,” Ms. Muller said. “Most [insects] are just collected and there’s very little experience in insect farming, for example, which is something that could be explored in view of a growing population.”

Insects are also discussed as a potential food source for livestock.  The report suggests that fully automated insect works could be set up close to breweries or food factories that produce high volumes of farm waste. Each could breed hundreds of tonnes of insects a year to be fed to other animals.  Given that insects reproduce themselves at a rapid rate, require very little land and largely feed off waste products, it is certainly an environmentally friendly idea.   

A commenter on a National Geographic article which discusses the taste and nutrition pros and cons of a number of different bugs, suggests that the United Nations leads the way with a ‘bug banquet’.  I second that.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...