It is clear that the human population does not show signs of slowing down anytime soon. With projections expecting over 9 billion people on Earth by 2050, sustainable food and agriculture practices have become a prevalent topic. How will we feed such a massive population, and how can we do it sustainably? Entomophagy, the use of insects as food, is a concept that is growing in popularity. Though the consumption of insects will not be the single golden key to sustainable food practice, they could contribute to part of the solution.
Insects can be a more sustainable source of protein when compared to typical livestock. Two kilograms of feed can produce 1kg of meat, 80 percent of which is edible. On the other hand, cattle requires 8kg of feed for the same amount of meat. Yet, only 40 percent of cattle is edible. Insects also take less time to raise as they reproduce quickly and have shorter life spans. In addition, they require less feed and water than current livestock options. Food scraps and animal manure can be reused as insect feed, reducing competition against the human food supply. On the consumption side, various bugs have more iron, protein, omega-3, and vitamins than traditional meat sources.
The most significant problem with implementing this diet is the actual factor of extending entomophagy into current food culture, especially in the Western world. Many other cultures around the world already consume insects regularly. The United States is one of few countries that has such a strong negative stigma towards bug consumption, it would be difficult to influence our society to make the leap.
Success at bringing insects to the table have been seen when consumers cannot identify the insects in the dish. This works similarly to how our culture eats traditional meat. People are more comfortable with consuming animals when the actual animal is not staring back at them on the plate. Rather than pushing people to eat whole insects, using powdered forms of insects could be a good starting point. Crickets are commonly baked and crushed into a fine powder. This powder can be placed in foods such as cookie dough, protein bars, and potato chips. Some chefs are expanding the use of this powder in more attractive dishes such as cricket cobbler and “critter fritters”.
With the use of cricket powder increasing in popularity, the negative view on insect consumption can potentially be diminished. This could eventually result in another reliable form of protein in menus across America.
Have you or would you willingly eat insects? What are your personal opinions on eating insects? Do you think this form of food will catch on in the future or is this a lost cause?