The global population is expected to increase to 9.1 billion by 2050. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization stated that we would need to increase our food production by 70% to cater to everyone. The major problem today is that in order to increase agricultural production, we would need to clear more forests for farmland to raise livestock for consumption. This is unsustainable and it puts pressure on the environment and has a negative impact on climate change. However, there is a solution which is also a sustainable alternative to going meat-free. That is edible insects.
60% of an insect’s dry weight is protein. Insects such as crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms contain high amounts of protein, and they contain much higher levels of iron, copper, and magnesium than beef. They help to improve microbiome balance in the gut and decrease systemic inflammation.
Insect farming consumes less land, water, and food than traditional livestock. They also emit far lower greenhouse gases. Insects excrete less waste and their wastes work as a fertilizer for the soil.
Although consuming insects seems bizarre in Western culture, 80% of the countries in the world eat insects as part of their regular diet. They are commonly roasted, fried and spiced. So, most of these insects prepared this way taste crunchy and crispy.
Here is a list of insect foods that people from all over the world eat as part of their regular diet:
1) Grasshoppers (Mexico)
These grasshoppers are deep-fried and chucked into tortillas with salsa, onions, cheese, and guacamole. This is a staple Mexican cuisine that is called Chapulines. It is generally seasoned with chilli and lime juice. It is crunchy and is high in protein.
2) Crickets (Thailand)
This is a very popular snack and is sold in every stall in Thailand. It is deep-fried and seasoned with pepper powder. It is crunchy and it tastes like popcorn.
3) Scorpions (China)
It is traditional practice in China to skewer and season the scorpions before deep frying them. Sometimes, they pour white wine over the live scorpions before deep frying them to get a sweet taste afterwards.
4) Tarantula (Cambodia)
The tarantulas are fried with salt, sugar and seasoned with spices. They are commonly fried or roasted until they turn crimson red in colour. The locals enjoy this dish called “a-ping” by eating the legs first one by one.
5) Chinicuiles (Mexico)
The maguey worms contain high amounts of protein. They are mostly roasted or deep-fried and eaten in a taco with chili, salt and lime juice.
6) Silkworm pupae (South Korea)
This dish is called “beondegi” in South Korea and it is a popular snack. The insects are boiled or steamed before seasoning them with spices and ready to be eaten. They are high in protein.
7) Bamboo worms (Thailand)
You can find this popular local snack anywhere and from every stall vendor. They are crispy on the outside and soft inside. They are crunchy and taste a little salty.
There are new food companies working to introduce insect food products into the Western diet with insect flour or insect protein bars. Chirps Chips is one such company that appeared on the national television show called “Shark Tank” and they make all-natural high protein chips from cricket flour. This trend is not going to replace meat completely but rather offer an innovative and sustainable alternative to meat products and foods.