Waiter, There’s a Fly in My Soup.

A case for edible insects.

by Vivian Morellon

There was once a time when lobster was considered unfit for most – being a bottom feeder fueled this reputation. In fact, it was considered such bad quality that it was fed to livestock and prisoners. Then,  once lobster reached the mainstream, sushi was found appalling – RAW fish?! WHAT! Oh, but look at us now, 60 years later we can’t get enough of it and its variants (cue my obsession with Poke).

Which brings me to my case: what if it’s time to introduce a new protein to our (somewhat repetitive) diet? What if, instead of spaghetti and meatballs, we ate spaghetti and locusts? Yes, you read right. Insects as your newest protein – they are healthy, environmentally sustainable, and (dare I say) a solid attempt at tackling poverty related hunger.

It is estimated that 2 billion people already eat bugs as part of their normal diet, a practice called entomophagy. It is slowly making its way to the West, to the excitement of health aficionados and environmentalists.

Yes, we usually avoid insects at all costs but with the raising of livestock taking a toll on our soil, water sources, and 14.5% contribution of total greenhouse gas emissions, the need for a sustainable food source is vital. Combine the environmental urgency with the projected 2.4 billion population increase and we have ourselves a food and climate change crisis.

So these tiny insects, might just be part of the solution.

The nutritional value.

Scientists have identified 925,000 species of insects – 2,100 of which are edible and contain high-quality protein, amino acids, vitamins, calcium, zinc, and iron for humans. Crickets, for example, contain twice as much protein as chicken and almost three times the amount found in a sirloin steak; not to mention heavy on iron and calcium. 

And it’s not just crickets! Mealworms, beetles, ants and spiders are also on the menu.

The growing method.

Yes – they’re healthy for us, but insects are also hyper sustainable. They are so small that they require little space, reproduce quickly, don’t produce nearly as much greenhouse gas and need a substantially smaller feed. Translation: all pros.

“One third of all food produced globally is either lost or wasted. Food loss and waste (FLW) represent a misuse of the labour, water, energy, land and other natural resources that went into producing it. Food loss refers to any food that is lost in the supply chain between the producer and the market – this can be due to pre-harvest problems, inadequacy of supply chain infrastructure, markets, price mechanisms or even the lack of legal frameworks (FAO).

With an efficient insect production method, insect farming could reduce the harmful effects of traditional agricultural industry; however, more research is needed in order to avoid unwanted effects such as the spilling of insects in unwanted ecosystems or an overpopulation of them. After all, cattle and livestock are beneficial to the environment and natural cycles – it’s actually the insane volume and concentration at which they are kept that harms the soil and releases harmful gases. We wouldn’t want to create the same problem with insects. Through responsible cultivation, insect farming looks very promising if kept from the dangers of mass production.

The abundance.

The current world population is 7.7 billion and around 795 million people in the world currently don’t have enough food and are malnourished (Food Aid Foundation). At the same time, it is estimated that there are some 10 quintillion (that’s 10 with 18 zeros) individual insects alive. It’s truly a math question, if we don’t seem to have enough food distribution but have enough nourishing insects… how long will it take before this protein is accepted? (Smithsonian).

Haven’t won you over?

I get it, I get it – I myself don’t jump at the opportunity of eating larva. But there are products that have successfully pulverized bugs into tasty snacks and protein powders. If you’re not completely grossed out by the end of this article, check out the following brands – they’re an easy introduction to the power of insect protein!

CHIRPS. Insect chips – movie night with a twist!

CHAPUL. Cricket protein powder – versatile and healthy.

EXO. Cricket protein bars – on the go crunch.