Hunger and food security are constant topics, and an estimated one billion people go to bed hungry or malnourished in our modern world. While many of us take for granted that food is there whenever we want to eat, scientists disagree; using insects as a primary food source may the best way to combat world hunger and environmental damage.
Don’t lose your appetite just yet. There are very good reasons to include the insect world on your plate, such as:
- Insects are abundant – a plague of locusts won’t be able to eat grain fields if they get eaten first (reducing the effects of famine in many countries)
- Insects use fewer resources – it takes 7 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef, and only 65% of that is usable. The ratio of feed to meat for insects is closer to 2 or 3:1, making bugs a better environmental choice.
- Bugs are nutritional powerhouses - insects are low in fat (except for grubs, which tend to be fatty), and high in protein and vitamins.
- Bugs are good economically - insects take up much less space to raise and cost less, and don’t produce the amount of pollution and greenhouse gasses that livestock megafarms do.
The list goes on, but if that isn’t enough to convince you, think about this: two billion people already add insects to their daily diet, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization believe that food scarcity is a coming reality; so much so that they suggested research increase areas of insects as a food supply. It may be the only way we can keep adequate protein levels in our future populations.
While this may feel like a moment out of “Soylent Green,” insects have been in our food supply for, well, forever. FDA regulations state specific levels of “insect parts per million” for food manufacturers as law, and there is an excellent chance that your Cheerios may have had a bug bonus in them at some point in time. But since you didn’t see anything that looked crawly when you ate them, no harm no foul, right?
This brings up the cultural taboo of eating insects in western society. Chinese diners think nothing of the after-dinner scorpion, but getting the western buy-in will be difficult. Scientists believe that the biggest use for insect protein will be in the form of protein powder that can be added to smoothies, baked goods, and everything else. Mealworms are currently being researched for use as the base of this protein supplement, but don’t expect them to always be organic. Just like mass-produced chicken, pork, or beef, even your mealworms may be given hormones and antibiotics someday, too.
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