Insects, anyone?

When my sister and I were little, our Thai nanny fried up some grasshoppers for us to eat. I can’t remember what they tasted like but I remember the experience well: it was fun and exciting. We caught the grasshoppers and she cooked them. There is a word for the practice of eating insects. It is called entomophagy and it has been practiced by humans for thousands of years.

Some people think insects should make up a much larger portion of our diet as they are high in protein, healthy and environmentally friendly. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has just produced a report on the topic, Edible insects – Future prospects for food and feed security. They estimate that some 2 billion people today regularly eat insects. These include beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, cicadas, leaf and planthoppers, scale insects, termites, dragonflies and flies.

The FAO report argues that insects are “rich in protein and good fats and high in calcium, iron and zinc”. They also produce significantly less greenhouse gas and ammonia than most livestock. They require less land and would not be responsible for any landclearing. It is also very low-tech to harvest and rear insects, requires little in the way of capital investment and so can provide opportunities for some of the poorest sections of society, such as women and the landless.

A British-based company – ENTO – is trying to reduce the ick factor associated with eating insects by turning them into gourmet morsels. They’ve produced a video, The art of eating insects in which they showcase some of their bugs:

7 thoughts on “Insects, anyone?”

  1. Dried Cricket Mince! Fresh Crickets! Yum as long as I don’t see the live primary product. In meat-eating countries, most people mentally separate the grazing animal in the field from the packaged meat in the supermarket. It will take time for the “ick” factor to be overcome to that point in people’s minds. The benefits nutritionally and environmentally are undeniable and this could also be an effective way to feed people in poor and drought affected places. There is also, perhaps the benefit of reducing the numbers of plague insects in agricultural cropping areas. The video is very well done.

    1. A British entomologist, V.M. Holt suggested in 1885 that eating insects would not only benefit agricultural crops but would also provide food for the poor:

      “One of the constant questions of the day is, How can the farmer most successfully battle with the insect devourers of his crops? I suggest that these insect devourers should be collected by the poor as food. Why not? (Holt, 1885: 14–15)”

      I agree though, I’d rather it looked less like the live primary product. Ground up as mince sounds fine to me.

  2. Yes, there is a real ick factor. As I’m phobic about grasshoppers, I’d have a real problem facing them on a plate (unless they were well camouflaged). Saw some gourmet insect hors d’oeuvres on TV the other night. They looked appetising (although I’m not sure I would have been adventurous enough to eat them). Enomophagy is a good idea. (Thanks for teaching me a new word!) 🙂

  3. But they don’t taste so good. Although I am an omnivore I think that I still need my rib fillet twice per week. Sorry Rachel.

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