Some experts are saying that insects may form a sustainable, nutritious alternative to meat and are needed to keep food production in pace with the planet’s booming population.
Jonathan Majer, an entomologist at Australia’s Curtin University, says that despite the squeamishness many people feel towards eating insects, there is great potential for the market.
“Insects are very fast breeders so they are potentially a way of producing proteins and fats for human consumption rapidly – more than cows, goats or sheep,” says Professor Majer.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization tells us that food production will need to be increased by 70 percent to feed 2.3 billion more people by 2050.
Researchers are looking for more efficient and innovative methods of food production, such as genetically modified foods and lab-grown meat. Professor Majer believes that insects are a good way of yielding protein from waste.
“Insects can feed on waste products a cow could not feed on and produce palatable protein and fat,” he says.
The Professor warns us against harvesting insects from wild habitats because it would pose the danger of depleting insect populations.
“Insects are small so we need a lot to feed on, but we must not do this at the expense of the conservation of the insect,” he says. “It needs to be something you can breed in an urban situation, in a factory unit or greenhouse in large quantities.”
According to the Professor, we need to develop better techniques to rear safe, palatable insects for human consumption. We also need to overcome human resistance to this unfamiliar food source.
“Some people are always on the lookout for more interesting flavors and like being experimental,” he says. “If you eat crustaceans, if you don’t have trouble eating a prawn or a crab then why would you have a problem eating an insect? They are all arthropods – they are fairly closely related.”
The Professor does warn us that precautions must be taken before we start munching on insects.
“They must be cooked properly because many insects are intermediate hosts of a whole gang of flatworm and worm-like parasites,” he says. There are plenty of insects that sequester toxic chemicals in their bodies or manufacture toxic chemicals to protect against predators. One has to target particular insects which are easy to breed and safe.”
The professor hopes that future research will identify edible insect species which are suitable for long-term sustainable rearing.
It is a fact that insects have been eaten by humans for centuries and that they are still enjoyed by people living in Asia, South America and Africa.
Now that you’ve read this article, we would like for you to just imagine yourself going through the drive-through at a McDonalds restaurant and ordering a “Bug Mac”. Or, how about going to Stuart Anderson’s and ordering a “Black Roach” steak?? Don’t know about you, but I think we’ll all pass on that. If we ever get to that point, I think the rest of us will all be heading for the nearest salad bar!