Fancy some spiced spiders, curried centipedes or beetles baked in butter? If avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, entomophagy – the process of eating insects – might just be a viable alternative source of protein for those who don’t want to rely on veggies alone.
According to a recent report by the UK government’s waste agency, insects should actually become a staple of diets around the world as an environmentally friendly alternative to meat – though persuading people to overcome ‘the yuck factor’ will require skill, admits the report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) which assesses challenges to the human food system in the next 10 years.
The eggs, larvae, pupae and adults of certain insects have been eaten by humans since prehistoric times, and while it’s yet to catch on hugely in the West, many cultures from South America, Africa, Australia, Asia and beyond continue to eat them as a good source of protein, minerals and other nutrients. The most popular, including beetles, butterflies, bees, ants, crickets and locusts, have been found by scientists to be nutrient-efficient compared to other meat sources. Crickets, for example, are a compete protein and contain an amount comparable with protein from soybeans, while locusts contain between 8 and 20 milligrams of iron for every 100 grams, compared to beef which contains roughly 6 milligrams of iron for every 100 grams and is far higher in fat.
Governments have been trying to push the eating of insects for quite some time, but are stepping up the pressure because finding a nutritional and sustainable protein supply will be ‘one of the defining challenges of the coming decades’, adds the report.
Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen has written a whole book about the subject, On Eating Insects (Phaidon), while many gourmet chefs in restaurants around the world are trying to tempt guest palates with everything from black ant guacamole to cricket and grasshopper burger (find these gourmet dishes and more here). If you can’t face an insect ramen, you can always getyour insects in powder form – ground cricket flour is, for example, already being used as a protein source in North America.
Want to know more? Read the full report here. More analysis here eating insects should be part of a sustainable diet in future. Or to consider whether we should all be vegan instead here.