For several years now I have been quite interested in entomophagy which means eating insects. I’ve started buying insect dog food for the dogs we borrow and this week I bought a packet of ground buffalo (buffalo is a type of beetle, also known as mealworm) from a Welsh company called Bug Farm Foods. It was not cheap. I paid £7.99 for this tiny pack.
Inside the packet, it looks like this and has a nice nutty aroma (Ben, however, thinks the smell is vaguely reminiscent of cockroach.) There’s no visible sign of worms.
I put a tablespoon of my ground insect powder into muffins. There were 12 but Ben and the kids all grabbed one the minute they left the oven. I didn’t tell anyone they contained insects and they all wolfed them down.
Insects will have a big part to play in the future of food. It’s clear we cannot go on eating farmed chickens, pigs, and cows and while I think there’ll be a big shift towards a plant-based diet, I also think insects and lab-grown meat will play a part. How big, I’m not sure.
Insects are promising because their nutritional content is very good. A study published in 2016 found the iron bioavailability in these buffalo bugs is higher than beef.
The same study compared beef with grasshoppers, crickets, and buffalo worms and found all three insects beat beef in the bioavailability of calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and zinc.
Insect farming is also much more sustainable than the farming of animals like cows, chickens, and beef. They require less land, less water, produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and require less feed per protein produced than other animals. Entomophagy is also a good way to deal with locust swarms if you have them in your area.
10 thoughts on “Eating insects”
I was going to mention the current locust plague… you beat me to it! 🙂
Doesn’t this go against your vegan diet? I know vegans who won’t use honey or beeswax because they consider them animal products. That said, insects, I suppose, could be a good alternative source for animal protein, but this is one of those areas where I’m happy to be vegetarian. 🙂
I am not a strict vegan and do eat honey. I kill slugs that eat my plants and mosquitoes and ticks that bite and I don’t have any great objection to eating insects. I probably won’t buy it again though just because it’s too expensive but I’d like to see other people swap beef for insects.
How do they kill the insects? Grind them up alive?
No, they freeze them which I think is kinder than pesticides. I don’t like pesticides and never use them at my allotment. But I do kill insects. It’s hard to grow up in Australia not doing so when you’re surrounded by mosquitoes and cockroaches. There’s also an imported worm here that’s a terrible pest – it’s the NZ flat worm and it has taken over allotments everywhere and kills earthworms. I would kill that as I also kill the slugs. That said, I try to encourage insects to my garden, especially bees and worry that all the pesticides we use have caused irreversible damage to ecosystems.
I have heard about the invasion of the NZ flatworm in the UK. I also kill insects and pests, when it’s a question of my welfare or theirs.
I had never heard of the NZ flatworm until I came here. I don’t remember it in NZ.
I don’t intend to start consuming insects. I’m very happy with my diet and am getting all the nutrients I need. However I think they’re a good option for pet food and also for people who are lacking in iron and can’t, for whatever reason, take supplements. In other words, there’s really no excuse at all to continue eating fish, birds, and mammals.
I think people will eat insects as long as it doesn’t look like insects. A sack of ground, dried powder isn’t too bad, but I can’t see people buying a sack with identifiable legs and wings.
Agreed. As long as people can’t see visible insect parts they might give it a try. Apparently we all eat bits of insects anyway because they end up naturally in our food.
I tried ‘cricket chips’ (made with cricket flour) while I was an assistant at an entomology summer camp. I was only going to eat one, because I was sure it was going to taste like ‘bug’? I was so wrong. The chips tasted great