Historically speaking, humans evolved while consuming insects. In fact, most cultures around the world continue to praise insect protein as a delicacy, sometimes even valuing it over meat. While bugs have maintained a bad reputation in the western world as gross creepy crawlies, they’re the ideal protein of the future. Easy and quick to farm, insects could provide the world’s protein at a significantly lower environmental impact than traditional meat sources which begs the questions, will your morning bacon and eggs soon be replaced with beetles and mealworms?
The portrayal of insects in popular culture certainly hasn’t helped the case of eating bugs. Labeled as disgusting pests, one can’t really imagine having one in the same room let alone pop one in your mouth! So why should we attempt to rethink insects as food?
At current population growth, there will be nearly 9 billion people on the planet by 2050 (if not more). That’s a whole lot of people and the fact is, the way we feed ourselves currently as a global population is unsustainable. According to the United Nations, in order to properly feed that population of 9 billion, sustainable food production will have to increase by 70 percent. That’s a massive number and one that requires a protein source that provides high levels of protein using fewer resources. That’s where bugs come into play. Crickets, for example, require only 2kg of feed to produce 1kg of edible meat while cattle require 8kg of feed to produce the same amount of edible meat. This means that significantly less land is required to produce large quantities of bug protein, plus bugs don’t produce the same amount of green house gas emissions and waterway pollution that cattle do. And did we mention that they require a significantly smaller amount of water?
From a scientific, sustainable and environmentally friendly standpoint, eating insects is a no brainer. In fact, they’re slowly finding their way into the marketplace as a hot new health supplement. In special grocers, you might be able to spot fancy cricket protein powder and even chocolate bars filled with bugs. With nearly 1,900 species of edible insects, the possibilities are truly endless, as are the health benefits. Insects contain about the same amount of protein as a serving of beef, pork or chicken plus they have extremely high levels of iron, B12, calcium and essential amino acids that other meats lack. Studies have even begun to show the benefits of consuming specific bugs. Mealworms have been proven to rev up your metabolism, crickets actually lower blood pressure, and cockroaches provide the essential nutrients to strengthen hair, skin and nails.
So, while we understand that you may not want to buy a pack of crickets, fry them up and serve them on a bed of rice anytime soon, don’t be so quick to dismiss insects as a potent source of protein. The next time you’re in a health food store shopping for a new protein powder, reach for a bug based option and give it a go. Odd are, you really won’t even notice a difference, you’ll be making a step towards more sustainable food production, and you’ll be getting a little taste of the protein of the future.