The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) web page pointed out very clearly the anticipated population growth of reaching 9 billion by 2050 is placing tremendous stress to the environment to induce further food and livestock feed production. Depletion of agricultural land, forest, water, fishery, biodiversity resources, non-renewable energy and nutrients are anticipated.
In recognizing the unavoidable trend, FAO has been tirelessly researching, promoting the idea of edible insects as an alternate food source. A staggering 1900 species of insects have been identified as fit for human consumption. One of them is your friendly chirping cricket that your little brother has been feeding to his pet iguana for ages. Marching forward, entomophagy (insect eating) will likely become more visible as an alternate food source.
Why insects are chosen?
It is not something new, humans have been consuming insects since prehistoric ages. Cave drawings and archeology digs have provided evidence as such. Some cultures in Asia, South America, Africa, New Zealand and Australia just never cease with this tradition.
Studies have shown that edible insects contain a significant amount of quality protein. In addition, they provide a variety of essential amino acids, minerals, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins for humans. Some species such as cricket contained as much calcium as dairy milk. Humans can replace regular white or red meat completely with insect without suffering a nutrient deficiency. In recognizing of this fact, a few companies have started producing flour, biscuits, chips, energy bars with pulverized six-legged buggy contents. Bitty, Exo and Chapul have been shipping their products containing cricket flour for a while now. Their products can be ordered online.
What’s the impact on the environment?
For one thing, insects require a lot less feed than other livestock. For example, crickets need only 1/6 of what are fed to cattle, ¼ of sheep, and ½ of chickens and pigs to produce the similar amount of protein. Often, insects can be raised on organic waste cutting down economic and environment strain further. Their requirement for fresh water is a mere fraction of what is needed to keep traditional livestock. They reproduce at much faster rate than conventional life stock. A female cricket can lay close to 1500 eggs quarterly. The development of eggs to adult crickets is a mere 45 to 60 days.
Favorable greenhouse gas and ammonia emission of insect farming due to their excellent direct conversion of plant to protein index. The calculation has indicated the food conversion efficiency of crickets is almost twenty times better than cattle.
The notion of insects could be part of the equation of solving future food insecurity have FAO and numbers of countries looking into this mini-livestock production seriously. A well-run, scientifically managed, large-scale farming of edible insects could be the solution to preventing food scarcity, but that would require a shift in Western perception on insects as edible.
Popular reality TV shows such as Fear Factor reintroduced the concept of insect eating to the mass. A few restaurants in Canada, USA, and Europe have been serving insects on their menu. Competitive eating of insect is a fun way to entice more Western culture into the fold of entomophagy.
Visibility, habitats conservation, and economic incentives are likely the main push for the society embracing insects into the food chain.