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: