4 reasons insects could be a staple food

Original note published in The Conversation

By Bryan Lessard, CSIRO and Rocio Ponce-Reyes, CSIRO

4 reasons insects could be a staple food
4 reasons insects could be a staple food

With a world population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, one of the greatest challenges of our time is making sure there is enough food for everyone.

The land and water for cultivation are limited. In addition, climate change, harmful environmental practices and emerging diseases threaten supply chains.

One way to deal with this crisis is to reach out to our insect friends. Don’t resist it: more than two billion people in 130 countries already consume insects. In Australia, for example, many already consume natural red food coloring made from mealybugs or peanut butter, which can legally contain up to 5% insect fragments.

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A contribution by Dr. Bryan Lessard (@bry_the_fly_guy)

We want to introduce insects as an option for inclusion in the diet and present the new CSIRO study Edible Insects: Strategies for Growing an Emerging Australian Industry. In it, we outlined a strategic plan that examines the challenges and opportunities for Australia to participate in the global edible insect market, which is expected to be worth A $ 1.4 billion by 2023.

Our report provides a useful framework for anyone interested in getting a piece of the cricket cake, including insect processing startups, farmers, food producers, researchers, policymakers, and indigenous companies. In order to harness the agricultural potential of indigenous insect species, we need to create lines of cooperation, encourage the joint development of initiatives by members of indigenous peoples, and do more research.

CSIRO presents the first strategic plan for edible insects

If we are bolder in our food choices and include insects in our diet, we can reduce our ecological footprint, improve our health, and be more connected to the land and culture. We are confident that you, your friends and your pets will have a lot of fun with it.

Here are four reasons why we should be eating more insects, quite a challenge:

1. A long tradition of eating insects

The urge to eat insects is growing. A 2006 study found that 20% of Australians surveyed would be willing to eat a “Vityuti larva”.

After all, the aborigines of Australia have been eating insects for tens of thousands of years, indigenous species like the Vitjuti larvae that taste like scrambled eggs with a hint of walnut; or bogong moths, which have a peanut butter flavor, and green tree ants, which have a sour, lemon-like taste.

These are just a few of the 60 native species of edible insects that have been detected in Australia.

Vityuti larvae are one of Australia's 60 edible insect species

Edible insects are celebrated and traditionally consumed by members of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. Getty Images

2. Insects could improve our health

Edible insects are not only tasty, but also very nutritious: they provide high quality protein and other nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc and vitamins B12, C and E.

Recent studies have shown that eating some insects – such as silkworms, wax moth caterpillars and tenebrium larvae, mealworms – can improve bowel health, blood pressure, and lower blood sugar levels.

Edible insects are rich in proteins, vitamins, and other micronutrients that could improve our health. B. Ceko B. Lessard

Further study is needed to identify the species and determine the nutritional value of each, in order to choose which to consume and to maximize health benefits.

Warning, people with shellfish allergy: edible insects are related to crustaceans and can cause similar allergic reactions.

3. There are already products with insects

Although they may seem like foods of the future, products containing edible insects are already available in some supermarkets.

New companies and insect producers that are part of the Insect Protein Association of Australia are breeding insects and turning them into new edible products. We can even seek advice from nutritionists who specialize in edible insects.

Dog eats from a plate with insects

Pets love to enjoy delicious and sustainable food made from edible insects. Bryan Lessard, author provided

If you’re curious, why not try some delicious peanut butter with smoked crickets. Other suggestions might include nachos with corn chips infused with cricket powder or spaghetti with cricket powder noodles. Maybe a little gin fortified with green tree ants will help you steel yourself.

And if you are very adventurous, you can take your culinary qualities to the next level by baking your own muffins, breads, or bases with high-protein cricket powder.

And for your puppy? Try feeding him sustainable pet products made from black soldier flies or tenebrios.

4. Growing insects benefit the environment

Compared to traditional farm animals like cows, pigs, and chickens, insects produce fewer greenhouse gases because they excrete less feces and generally don’t ferment food into methane in their bowels (only cockroaches and termites produce methane this way).

Also, only a very small fraction of the insect is wasted as between 80 and 100% of the animal is consumed. Even insect waste (or droppings) can be turned into nutrient-rich fertilizers for the garden.

Insects need little space, water and food to produce large amounts of high quality protein.

But insect farmers are also reducing the traffic-related CO2 footprint by developing urban mini-farms for insects and thus producing sustainable proteins close to the consumer. Perhaps one day, insects could be useful to farmers and supplement their animals’ diet in times of drought.The conversation

A wide variety of edible insects are consumed in Mexico, such as chicatan ants, maguey worms, jumiles, escamoles, and chinicuiles.

This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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