You may have heard the buzz lately about the health and environmental benefits of entomophagy, but you’re probably asking yourself, what is it? If you’re native to the United States, the United Kingdom, or another western country, you probably haven’t practiced entomophagy, or even witnessed it since the last Fear Factor episode aired. Entomophagy is the human consumption of insects as food.
More than two billion people in the world make insects part of their daily diet, and about 1,900 species of insects are used for food consumption according to a report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the Untied Nations (FAO) in 2013. However, most western civilizations gawk at the thought of consuming insects.
With populations growing rapidly, and food production challenges increasing, entomophagy is becoming more of a global focus. It is also more widely recognized, because consuming insects can be beneficial for both your health and the environment. It may even become part of your daily diet in the years to come.
The health benefits of eating insects
Insects are packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, fats and other minerals that are essential for the human diet. Many insects contain the same, if not more, nutrients than many other food sources. For example, mealworms contain unsaturated omega-3 and six fatty acids that are comparable to fish. In addition, mealworms provide protein, vitamins and minerals that are similar to fish and meat.
Not only are insects beneficial to your health, they are also beneficial to the environment.
The environmental benefits of eating insects
Raising and harvesting insects is much less expensive than raising and harvesting cattle, pigs, or sheep because insects require less land and water. Insects also convert food into protein quicker than any animal, thus requiring less food themselves. For instance, crickets only need two kilograms of feed for every one kilogram of bodyweight gain, according to the FAO report. Furthermore, fewer greenhouse gasses are emitted from insects than most livestock.
There are also potential benefits for the economy if more insect farms begin to develop. They could provide jobs and income for multiple countries.
People often ask, how do insects taste. On a recent episode of Shark Tank, the investors found that cricket flour tastes similar to traditional flour when used in baked goods. GirlMeetsBug blogger, Daniella Martin, reports that insects tend to taste a bit nutty, especially when roasted. Crickets, for instance, taste like nutty shrimp, whereas most larvae she’s tried have had a nutty mushroom flavor. Her favorites are wax moth caterpillars, also known as wax worms, and bee larvae, which taste like enoki-pine nut and bacon-chanterelle, respectively.
If you are ready to join the entomophagy trend, check out these bug delicacies to get started. However, we don’t recommend you eat the next bug you see. It’s not wise to consume any insect without knowing how it was raised.