Eating bugs only happens in books, television shows, dares, and when Bear Grylls is stuck in the wilderness for extended periods with little or nothing to eat. Right? Not exactly. Eating insects - formally known as entomophagy - is a big part of many peoples diets across the planet, and it has been for thousands of years.
It may seem weird and gross, but it is more common than you might think. Nearly one-third of the world’s population is reliant on bugs as a portion of their healthy diet due to the accessibility, sustainability, and loads of nutrients in just a handful of Jiminy Crickets.
A Brief History Of Entomophagy
It has been said the history of eating insects began sometime around 10,000 BC and they were seen as both a staple food, as well as a delicacy. But as agricultural practices advanced, entomophagy changed with it. Some cultures continued to use insects as a source of food while others began to perceive them as pests that ruined their crops.
In ancient Greece cicadas were classified a luxury snack, even Aristotle spoke about the delicacy of the cicadas, and in ancient Rome, the Romans believed the beetle larvae to be gourmet food.
Entomophagy also made an appearance in the Old Testament book of Leviticus, calling rabbits, pigs, pelicans, mice, turtles, and weasels off-limits for human consumption while granting permission to eat locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers.
Now that you know the brief history of entomophagy, keep reading to learn about how entomophagy is practiced in the modern world.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) claims over two billion of the world’s population eats insects, most of which being in tropical climates. Although entomophagy is popular in Mexico and parts of Asia, Africa, and South America, in recent years it has grown into parts of the Western world along with curiosity.
It may seem as though the only time people eat bugs are when they are dared to on reality shows such as Survivor or Fear Factor, but more bugs are consumed in Northern America than one might assume. In red lipsticks and red candies, a common ingredient is cochineal, which is an insect from South America used for red dyes. Aside from dares and sweets, more and more insects are being used in protein bars and ground into a powder to make flour for all sorts of baked goodies.
So grab a protein bar and keep on reading to learn what kind of benefits are found in the world of entomophagy.
Bugging For The Benefits Of Entomophagy
So what exactly are the benefits to chomping on insects? There are plenty! First of all, it requires half of a pound of feed to obtain one pound of insect meat, whereas, it costs eight pounds of feed to get one pound of beef. Insect farming is sustainable, healthy, low on greenhouse-gas emissions, requires little infrastructure and resources, and bugs can be fed compost and waste.
There are also over 1900 species of edible bugs to choose from, most of which contain as much or more iron than beef, and are high in healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and can include up to eighty percent protein. With iron deficiency being the most common nutritional deficiency, turning to bugs as a food source could benefit those who are affected by anemia, which happens to be nearly thirty percent of the world’s population.
You now know bugs may help solve the anemia epidemic, but continue reading to learn about the cultivation of insects for human purposes.
Cultivation Of Insects For Human Purposes
The cultivation of insects for consumption may seem like a new idea. However, insect cultivation has been in practice for centuries for both insect products and a source of food. There are over 20,000 cricket farms for human and animal consumption in Thailand alone.
The most common insects for cultivation happen to be the honey bee and silkworm, but others such as the Hemiptera, fleas, and termites are used. The silkworm produces over 90,000 tonnes of silk each year, but many other insects provide us with products or services like pollination. Bees are responsible for providing an approximate 1.2 million tonnes of honey each year, as well as Royal Jelly, used in many beauty products; Propolis, used as natural medicine; and beeswax.
Now that you know about the cultivation of bugs and the roles we play in each other's lives, keep reading to find out all about entomophagy around the world.
Entomophagy Around The World
Eating insects are commonplace in many areas of the world, and nearly one-third of the world’s population includes insects into their diets. It is said entomophagy is more common in tropical climates. However, the argument is still up for debate. It has been noticed that bugs tend to grow larger in warmer climates and have a swarm mentality, which makes it easier to cultivate and eat them.
In Africa, markets in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, boast an abundance of edible caterpillars. The average household within Kinshasa consume 300 grams of caterpillars per week, and it has been estimated that 96 tonnes of caterpillars are consumed within the city each year. Insects are also included in a well-rounded diet in South Asia, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, the Pacific Islands, and Latin America. Over the past five years or so, entomophagy has begun to gain traction in some parts of Europe and North America.
Bugs are eaten all across the world, and the trend has been growing. So read further to discover the nutritional value of creepy crawlers.
What’s The Nutritional Value Of A Bug’s Life?
As we now know, bugs are filled with nutritional benefits, but the nutritional value of insects varies widely upon each species, their metamorphic stage, and their diet. It is common knowledge that bugs are filled with healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein, but how many bugs need to be devoured to reap these benefits?
For caloric energy content, insects range between eighty-nine and one thousand two hundred seventy-two kilocalories per hundred grams of dried insect matter. The percent of protein ranges between thirteen and seventy-seven percent, which converts to seven to forty-eight grams of protein per hundred grams, which is quite substantial.
You know that insects are loaded with nutrients, but continue reading to find out some potential risks of eating them.
The Potential Risks Of Eating Insects
Although there are so many benefits to entomophagy, there can also be some potential risks when it comes to munching on six-legged meals. One concern of entomophagy is eating insects caught in the wild. Although it may seem safe and harmless, there is no telling whether or not a bug has been covered in pesticides or other contaminants. Some other concerns regard the diet of the insect, and whether they have eaten food scraps contaminated with fungus or disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella.
Aside from this, insects may have high levels of cadmium that exceed what a human should consume, and they may have their own viruses, bacteria, and fungi that could be harmful upon human consumption.
Much more research must be conducted regarding entomophagy. However, it may be the right step towards creating a more sustainable planet.