Insects super food

Insects are a nutrient-rich protein source that is adopted by a large part of the world. Why are some of us so squeamish when it comes to eating them?

The idea of ​​biting in a burger of crushed grilling or mixing meal worms in the fried rice, maybe sometimes get used to. But even if the thought of the consumption of insects now turns the stomach, and some researchers could say they should be an important part of our diet.

While the West may be unusually squeamish with insects, people have been eating them for thousands of years, and in many parts of the world, practice is commonplace. Around 2,000 types of insects are eaten worldwide in Asia, South America and Africa. In Thailand, markets-held trays are sold with crispy fried grasshoppers and in Japan, wasp larvae - eaten alive - a delicacy.
We are in the middle of a mass mortality of biodiversity, we are in the middle of a climate crisis, and yet we have to feed a growing population at the same time - Sarah Beynon
But in Europe, only 10% of people would be ready to replace meat through insects, such a survey of the European consumer organization. For some, this lack of readiness is to eat insects, a missed chance.

"Insects are a truly important missing element in the food system," says Virginia Emery, managing director of Beta Hatch, a US start-up company that produces livestock of mealworms. "[They] are definitely a superfood. Super nutrient rich, a whole lot of nutrients in a really small package."
In the facilities of your company, Virginia Emery breeds hundreds of thousands of mealworms for use in cattle feed (Credit: BBC)
Virginia Emery breeds hundreds of thousands of mealworms in her business for use in cattle feed (Credit: BBC)
Therefore, bred insects could help solve two of the world's biggest problems at once: nutritional uncertainty and the climate crisis. (See our video about how insects are the missing link in our food chain, above or on BBC reel)

Agriculture is the greatest causer of global biodiversity loss and a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Nutrition and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), livestock is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

"We are in the middle of a mass diversity of biodiversity, we are in the middle of a climate crisis, and yet we have to feed a growing population at the same time," says the entomologin Sarah Beynon, which on the bug farm in Pembrokeshire, Wales, food on insect base developed. "We have to change something, a big change."

Insect breeding requires only a fraction of the country, the energy and water required for traditional agriculture and has a significantly lower carbon footprint. According to a study by researchers of the University of Wagingen in the Netherlands, grilling produce up to 80% less methane than cows and 8-12 times less ammonia than pigs. Methane is a highly effective greenhouse gas, which, although lives shorter in the atmosphere, has an 84-time impact on global warming over a period of 20 years than CO2. Ammonia is a stinging gas and an air pollutant that causes soil absence, groundwater pollution and damage to ecosystems.
Looking at the protein yield per surface, the insect breeding requires approximately an eighth of the area compared to beef - Peter Alexander
The global rearing of insects would freeze huge areas that are currently used for animal husbandry and production of feed for farm animals. If one would replace half of the globally consumed meat through meal worms and barbecues, one could reduce the need for farmland by one third and release 1.680 million hectares of land, which corresponds approximately to the 70-fold area of ​​UK. According to a study by the University of Edinburgh, this could reduce global emissions.
In many parts of the world, the consumption of insects is commonplace or even a delicacy
In many parts of the world, the consumption of insects is commonplace or even a delicacy
"Looking at the protein yield per area, the insect breeding requires about an eighth of the area compared to beef," says the main author of the study, Peter Alexander, a senior researcher for food security at the University of Edinburgh. Despite these results, Alexander says that the consumption of a beanburger is the more sustainable option, since less energy is consumed for the cultivation of plants than for the rearing of insects.

Tilly Collins, Senior Teaching Fellow at the Center for Environmental Policy at Imperial College in London, but argues that insects can fulfill some needs that can not fulfill herbal foods. "Herbal diet is often associated with significant carbon consumption. Many plants that people want to eat have catastrophic environmental effects," she says. "It's better to grow insects efficiently."

Collins says insects could be a particularly important source of food in developing countries. "We have a very good diet in the UK. We are rarely missing food. But in Africa that's not the case," she says and realizes that many African countries quickly expand the production of insects for the nutrition of humans and animals quickly.

In many ways, insect breeding is an example that efficiency has become a high art. On the one hand insects are very fast: they reach their maturity within days, instead of how the animals need months or years, and they can produce thousands of offspring.
Insects are many times more efficient than farm animals in agriculture as they need less country and time to produce the same amount of food (Credit: Getty Images)
Insects are many times more efficient than farm animals in agriculture as they need less country and time to produce the same amount of food
In addition, insects convert their food to 12 to 25 times more efficient in protein than animals, says Beynon. According to FAO, grilling six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep and two times less than pigs. One of the main reasons for this efficiency is that insects are cold-blooded and therefore wastes less energy for maintaining their body heat, Alexander says, although some species must be raised in a warm environment.

Insect breeding also produces much less waste. "In animals, a large part of the meat is wasted. In insects, we would eat the whole thing," says Alexander.

Insects not only produce less waste, but can also live with food and biomass that would otherwise throw away, says Collins, and thus contribute to the circular economy where resources are recycled and reused in resources. Insects can be fed with agricultural waste, eg. B. with the stems and stems of plants, people do not eat, or with residues of food waste. To complete the recycling chain, your excrement can be used as fertilizer for crops.
We associate insects with everything, just not with food. I mean with dirt, danger, with a little disgusting, with something that makes us sick - Giovanni Sagari
Although the consumption of insects has a high sustainability and nutritional value, it is still a long way until they play a major role in the Western diet.

"We associate insects with everything possible, just not with food," says Giovanni Sagari, a researcher in food consumption. "We connect with dirt, danger, with a little disgusting, with something that makes us sick."

But the setting begins to change. By 2027, the market for edible insects is expected to achieve a volume of $ 4.63 billion (3.36 billion pounds), and European companies invest after approval by the European Food Safety Authority in Edible Insects.
Other foods with an image problem, such as: B. Hummer, have overcome the contempt of the people and have come in fashion
Other foods with an image problem, e.g. Hummer, have overcome the contempt of the people and have come in fashion
"The perception of food changes, but only slowly," says Alexander. He refers to the example of the lobster, which was considered the highest undesirable food for many years and often served in prisons before becoming a luxury. "He was so abundant that there was a law that banned to feed lobster more than twice a week to prisoners."

Sagari says that the best commercial offer is to grind the insects to powder and to use them in processed foodstuffs instead of serving them as a snack. Chef Andy Holcroft, who operates the first edible insect restaurant of the United Kingdom in the Bug Farm, agrees to this assessment.

"Instead of scattering whole insects on a salad ... I thought when we want to enforce them in the mainstream dining culture, it is best to build them as a percentage share in the total product," says Holcroft.

"At the end of the day, you can have the healthiest, nutrient-rich and sustainable product, but if it does not taste good and people are ready to accept it, it will be much harder to convey that."