Shouldn’t we be taking the idea of eating insects – or entophagy – a bit more seriously?
A delicious and nutrious meal all wrapped up in a crunchy coating! (zmescience)
Now I don’t know about you, but Ive eaten some pretty strange things in my time
- Big game from Africa – giraffe, zebra, gazelle, eland
- Australian animals and ferals – camel, crocodile, kangaroo
- Guinea Pigs from South America
- The eggs of the horse shoe crab in Thailand
- A range of fungus, lichen, moss, ferns and conifers in China
- And even a human placenta – and not my wife’s – but perhaps even worse, during a tribal ritual in Tanzania
However Ive always been a bit squeamish when it comes to insects!
But for over 2 billion people globally, eating insects – or entophagy – is a key part of their diets, and include; crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, ants, various beetle grubs (such as mealworms), the larvae of the darkling beetle or rhinoceros beetle, various species of caterpillar (such as bamboo worms, silkworms and the witchetty grub), scorpions and spiders (particularly tarantulas).
In fact there are over 2000 species of insects and spiders known to be edible to humans.
According to scientific analysis of diets (yes that’s looking at fossilized poo) and cave paintings, humans have been eating insects for millennia, and our closest evolutionary relatives, the apes and primates, consume insects as part of their varied diets.
So why eat insects when we can took into a good steak?
In these times of uncertain food security, highlighting the problems of feeding over 7 billion mouths around the world, we need to look for alternative and varied food sources. In fact a UN report promotes eating insects as the solution for ending world hunger and increasing food security.
The large scale rearing of insects – or minilivestock – is clearly part of the solution
Insects are an excellent source of protein, and are very efficient to produce. It requires 10 times as much plant matter to produce a kilo of mammal flesh compared to a kilo of insect biomass.
The carbon footprint of insect rearing, particularly in terms of methane production, is also much lower when compared to production of mammal biomass.
With only cultural taboos and squeamishness holding us back from tucking into plates of delicious insects every evening – shouldn’t we be taking entophagy a bit more seriously?
Adapted from speech given to open Grubs Up event at South Australian Museum (Nov 2013)