Insect eating might seem bizarre to some, but for billions of folks, chowing down on buggy delights is a totally normal practice. (Spoiler Alert: You’re probably one of them.)
Entomophagy isn't a new concept. Australian and North American Aboriginal peoples have eaten insects for thousands of years, and the Ancient Greeks were no strangers to six-legged snack foods. Today, 3000 ethnic groups all across the globe eat over 1900 edible species, from beetles to caterpillars to dragonflies. Understandably, the thought of eating insects reminds some people of gross-out reality television. But not long ago, amazing foods like sashimi, quinoa, and kimchi were something you’d dare your college roommate to lick. Often what we do or don’t consider “food” is really just a state of mind.
Over 100 countries already practice entomophagy, creating countless insect-inspired culinary delights. Below are a few examples; explore what they are and where they came from (and hey, don’t knock ’em ’til you’ve tried ’em).
Coffee and Chocolate and Insects…oh my!
of coffee beans can show
signs of "insect damage"
insect fragments per 50g
of cocoa beans
aphids per 100g of hops*
*On average, IPAs require 100g of hops per 9.5 litre batch
is made from
20x more B12 than beef
More calcium than milk
More iron than spinach
5x more magnesium than beef
High in prebiotic fibre which is good for your guts
40% protein by weight and low in saturated fat
High in Chitin which fights against nasty stuff like viruses, tumours, and allergies
Contain all 9 Essential Amino Acids for building and repairing muscles
Free of stuff you don’t need like sugar, pesticides, and GMO
Won’t make us sick (no zootomic diseases)
By 2050, the world’s human population is set to hit 9.6 billion. With food and fresh-water shortages looming, bugs might just be the superfood we’ve all been waiting for.
If there’s one thing bugs and people have in common, it’s that we’re good at making babies. Everyday, 400,000 newborns are welcomed to the planet (that’s 278 every minute). And in the same time span,156,000 people die. This means that the human population increases by a quarter of a million people every 24 hours. Currently, our tally sits at 7.3 billion, and it keeps getting bigger.
out of Room
Nearly 60% of people are concentrated on 32% of the earth’s land mass. Overpopulation corresponds with poverty, food insecurity and malnourishment.
Many places have long felt the negative effects of overpopulation, including poverty and malnourishment. Currently, 795 million people on earth are malnourished, and 3.1 million children under 5 years old die of starvation each year. The United Nations estimates that the population will boom to 9.6 billion by the year 2050. To obliterate food insecurity (meaning all people have access to safe nutritious food at all times), we’ll have to increase food production by 70%. Unfortunately, as the population increases, the amount of land available for farming and agriculture decreases. We need a high-protein food alternative that is plentiful, palatable, sustainable, and affordable to deal with the fact that there are too many peoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeoplepeople
(with Land Mass km2)
Livestock, Land and Water
Agriculture already takes up 32% of inhabitable land, and is responsible for 87% of total fresh water usage. Compared to chickens, pigs, and cows, cricket farming takes up way less space and water.
Amount of land (square meters) needed to raise
one pound of protein:
Every year, the average North American consumes:
Chicken - 65.5 lbs
Pigs - 52.7 lbs
Cows - 63.3 lbs
Amount of water (litres) needed to raise
one pound of protein:
17,481L = 4600 water bottles!
Total land and water required
to fulfil one North American’s yearly protein intake:
(Based on 85.6 lbs of protein consumption per year)
The Case for Crickets
Could insects be the answer to our agricultural woes?
No one is disputing the fact that we need protein to survive, and meat is an effective way to get it. But the planet won’t be able to keep up with our mass-consumption of meat forever, and we might as well start looking for awesome alternatives.
Raising cricket doesn’t require nearly as much land, water or feed as traditional proteins, and they emit a much smaller percentage of greenhouse gasses (we’re talking 90% less methane and 99.7% less nitrous oxide than cows). Since the global meat industry is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions every year — 4% more than transportation — crickets represent a small solution to a big problem.
The Case For Crickets
Top 7 reasons to consider crickets
There are SO MANY REASONS why crickets are a more sustainable alternative to animal proteins. Here are just a handful:
Crickets are far more efficient at converting feed into protein than chickens, pigs and cows.
Crickets can be farmed indoors, year-round, and in urban spaces, cutting down on food transportation distances.
In developing countries where workers collect crickets by hand, crops are saved from hungry bugs, and the crickets become a source of income.
Along with supplementing human diets, crickets also make excellent feed for livestock, further reducing their environmental footprint.
Crickets reproduce at an impressive rate (females can produce 1200 eggs at a time).
Crickets can happily survive off of grocery store leftovers, keeping precious “expired” food out of landfills.
When produced on a large scale, cricket protein is substantially more affordable than animal protein.
Feed Conversion Efficiency
Feed consumed: weight gained (in pounds)
Vitamin C (%)
OK, crickets may be a more sustainable alternative to animal proteins, but are they seriously a healthier choice? In a word...totally.
Nutrition table comparing meat proteins to 100g serving of cricket powder
The case for crickets
The Magic Ingredient
Cricket powder can be added to any food with ease, so it’s a great first step for the uninitiated.
If you’re new to the world of entomophagy, cricket powder (also called cricket flour) is a good way in. Cricket powder is a fine powder made from ground crickets. It has an oily, nutty flavour that's great for smoothies and baking. Cricket powder is high in calories, fat, and protein, meaning you don’t have to eat a lot to get a lot. Plus, it contains the entire cricket, so nothing goes to waste.
Not into crickets?
You can also try mealworm, silkworm, and even earthworm powder for the same health benefits.
Still a little weary? Insect powders also come in capsules, just to get you over the hump.
But how does it taste?
OK, you get that it’s good for you and good for the planet, but will it actually make your taste buds sing? In a word, yes!
Remember, entomophagy isn't about giving up the foods you know and love; it’s about broadening our culinary horizons and realizing that maybe the answer to future food shortages has been at our feet the whole time — just waiting to be noticed and invited in for a meal.
When it comes to preparing amazing insect-inspired culinary creations, who best to ask than the experts?