A couple of years ago the UN advised us to eat less meat and dairy in order to cut greenhouse gasses and reduce the risks of catastrophic climate change. Vegans and vegetarians high-fived the world over.

Now a UN report says we should broaden our diets to include insects for the double benefit of boosting global nutrition while reducing pollution. They do realize that complacent and affluent Westerners who can’t even be bothered to buy a reusable shopping bag probably won’t salivate at the thought of a grasshopper burrito, however. Strangely enough, I am, though it’s probably at the burrito part rather than the insectoid modifier.

Entomophagy, the eating of insects, is a word that is (amazingly) more gross-sounding than the act it signifies. While probably all of our ancestors scarfed bugs in the not too distant past, it only remains popular among some communities in Asia, Oceania and Latin America. It is estimated that two billion people worldwide supplement their diets with insects to some extent. There are also a few niche restaurants in the US and Europe and I even remember people barbequing cicadas in Washington DC when I was a kid, though I think they’re all just attention-seekers.

This Scientific American article points out the fact that there are quite a lot of insect parts in practically all the food we buy. We just can’t see them. Nonetheless they may be giving us a little bit of extra nutrition, seeing as consumable insects are packed with vitamins, higher in protein than meat and low fat. I doubt my bran flakes contain enough insect parts to make much difference, though.

Scorpion on a stick, Beijing. Pic: Harvey Barrison (Flickr CC)

Scorpion on a stick, Beijing. Pic: Harvey Barrison (Flickr CC)

The UN report goes on about the manifold benefits of cricket gobbling.

From BBC News:

Insects are also “extremely efficient” in converting feed into edible meat. Crickets, for example, need 12 times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein, according to the report. Most insects are likely to produce fewer environmentally harmful greenhouse gases than other livestock. The ammonia emissions associated with insect-rearing are far lower than those linked to conventional livestock such as pigs, says the report.

Still not convinced? Think about this: crustaceans like crabs, shrimp and lobster are basically insects of the sea. Help?

Anyway, for now we may not have to eat bugs and those of us that already do probably like it. But as the climate changes, fish stocks deplete, populations expand and economies fluctuate like maggots wriggling on a dinner plate, the need for more people to dig in to a beetle casserole will increase. Or if you’re a seafood fan, perhaps jellyfish soup is more your bag.

See this ITN video report about how the Aztec insect diet is making a comeback in Mexico City restaurants. And yes, I am drooling at the site of a soft taco filled with salsa verde and what could possibly be crickets.

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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