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July 8, 2013

Edible insects are putting the bee in breakfast

It’s time to get over the cringe-factor because edible insects are versatile, tasty and healthy to eat.  Edible insects could also become a crucial component in delivering food sustainably to the world’s ever growing population.

So start getting used to chowing down on chocolate coated crickets, roasted cockroaches, mealworms and the classic Bogong Moth Soup.

Mealworms
insect lolliesAbove: Mealworms are a great source of protein.
Right: Insect candies are available for the sweet toothed among us.

Coming to terms with a more sustainable lifestyle will mean changing the way we consume. A good place to start is by munching on more edible insects, because the world is likely to be hosting 9 billion people by 2050 and this will mean current food production will need to almost double according to a United Nation’s report.

Roughly 2 billion people globally, particularly in Africa and Asia, currently munch and crunch on edible insects, and have done for thousands of years.

Beetles, caterpillars, bees, cicadas, termites and dragon flies have all been long accepted as a legitimate and tasty component of traditional diets. Edible insects can also play a crucial role as a feed source for poultry and fish farming. Insects are highly nutritious and a healthy food source with high fat, protein, vitamin, fibre and mineral content comparable with fish and meat.

roasted crickets

roasted crickets 5 packAbove and right: Roasted crickets are available in bulk or sample packets from Edible Bug Shop.

In Australia it is possible to buy a whole range of edible insects from Skye Blackburn who runs the online Edible Bug shop. If people feel a bit squeamish about crunching down on a cockroach all they have to do its grind them into a powder and add them to their favourite biscuit or cake recipe she says. Her range includes sweets and savoury items as well as energy bars, all with edible insects as key ingredients.

The environmental benefits of rearing insects for food and feed are based on the high feed conversion efficiency of insects. Crickets require only two kilograms of feed for every one kilogram of body-weight gain.

In addition, insects can be reared on organic side-streams (including human and animal waste) and can help reduce environmental contamination. They also emit fewer greenhouses gases and ammonia, as well as requiring less land and water than conventional food sources.

There is still plenty of work to do to understand how edible insects can be grown and harvested on a large-scale but edible insects offer a significant opportunity to merge traditional knowledge and modern science.

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