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There’s a bug in my plate, and it’s delicious

June 25, 2014
by:Itai Lahat
It was a year ago that the UN published a report that made many people’s stomach queasy. You should eat more bugs, said the report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, it picked grasshoppers, ants and other bugs as protein-packed meat substitutes that are less harmful to the environment than traditional meat. Should we rethink our food culture?

According to the report, insects are high in fiber, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc, as well as energy providing protein, with some being comparable to lean red meat or broiled fish. The UN agency’s Edible Insect Program is analyzing the nutrition of common insects, as well as arachnids, as food sources for undernourished populations around the world.
While some will turn their heads in disgust to the idea, others will point out that insects are already part of a daily diet in many cultures. Locals nosh on delicacies like caterpillars in southern Africa and weaver ant eggs in Southeast Asia, sometimes paying top dollar for the privilege The Food and Agriculture Organization’s report concludes that since 2 billion people already include insects in their diet, the little buggers should be considered a regular part of our food source.
If cultural-historical reasons are not enough, then perhaps this infographic will make it clearer why we should eat more of them. As the chart shows, 10 kg of animal feed will give only 1 kg of beef, 2 kg of pork, 3 kg of chicken, but 9.9 kg of grasshoppers. This demonstrates how inefficient our protein production currently is. In a world where 1 billion are still hungry on a daily basis, it just makes sense to raise more crickets than beef.
Another point would be water. Raising beef is extremely wasteful in terms of water consumption. Had we produced grasshoppers for protein instead of last year’s quantity of beef (300 billion kg). we would have saved 3.6 million billion liters of water. Enough to give the whole world 2 liters of water a day for 700 years!
In a world where 1.2 billion people lack access to drinking water, it seems like a crime not to raise insects for protein instead of beef. And that’s without delving into the other environmental implications like the unbelievable amounts of CO2 emissions produced daily by the meat industry worldwide. Insects, on the other hand, emit only 9% of the amount currently being released into the atmosphere by this sector. Want to solve global warming? How about just eat some ants?
And here’s another reason: grasshoppers by many accounts, actually taste real good. They have a slightly nutty flavor and are delicious fried, caramelized, or roasted. The problem for this slowly growing market is double: people in the west still don’t like the idea, and they still cost a fortune – 250 euro per kilo. No wonder they are being served by gourmet restaurants like Noma, considered as the best in the world, at a price of 250 euro per plate of ants.

Images: wikimedia, nordicfoodlab

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Itai Lahat