Insects may be food of the future, says UN

ROME, Italy, Wednesday May 22, 2013 – Hungry? How about a barbecued beetle, a grilled grub, a caterpillar kebab or some tasty baked bees?  If none of the aforementioned tempts your tastebuds, a tangy wasp and ant cook-up might do the trick, or maybe you’ll spring for a grasshopper, locust and cricket stew. 

Before we go any further, we should point out that we’re not kidding. Neither are the authors of a study by the Forestry Department of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), who say that Western consumers should open their minds (and apparently their mouths) to eating what they say may be the food of the future.

Despite the widespread aversion by people in the West to eating things they’d rather swat, the study maintains that insects are an environmentally-friendly food source that could also help in the battle against obesity.

According to the report, “Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly, and they have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint.”

Over 1,900 species of insects are eaten around the world, mainly in Africa and Asia, and the report found the bugs most commonly consumed by humans were beetles (31 percent), caterpillars (18 percent) and bees, wasps and ants (14 percent), followed by grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (13 percent).

The study found that the insects with the most potential were the larvae of the black soldier fly, the common housefly and the yellow mealworm.

FAO forest economics director Eva Mueller, addressing a press conference in Rome, said “The main message is really, ‘eat insects’.

“Insects are abundant and they are a valuable source of protein and minerals,” she informed, adding

“Two billion people – a third of the world’s population – are already eating insects because they are delicious and nutritious.”

Mueller went on to say that some restaurants in Europe are already offering insect-based dishes, billing them as exotic delicacies.

“Beetles, grasshoppers and other insects… are now showing up on the menus of some restaurants in some European capitals,” the FAO expert said, while displaying slides of crickets decorating desserts in high-end restaurants.

Alan Yen, the leader of invertebrate sciences at Victoria’s department of Primary Industries, was involved in the UN research and conceded that changing Western attitudes towards eating bugs will be challenging.

“I think one of the things we want to make clear is that we’re not saying people should be eating insects only, but it’s another form of protein,” he told the ABC’s AM programme.

“When we’re talking about insects as food … it doesn’t mean you can buy, you know, a grasshopper or something like that and eat it as such.

“One of the things that this committee has been looking at is in fact setting up these insect factories. Some have already been established in the United States as prototypes, and also in South Africa as well. They’re actually just turning insects into protein powder to add to food items,” he explained.

Wider use of insects as feed for livestock is also called for in the report, which says that poor regulation and under-investment currently meant such feed “cannot compete” with traditional sources of feed.

“The use of insects on a large scale as a feed ingredient is technically feasible, and established companies in various parts of the world are already leading the way,” the report added, highlighting, in particular, producers in China, South Africa, Spain and the United States.

“Insects can supplement traditional feed sources such as soy, maize, grains and fishmeal,” it said.

The study also pointed out that the consumption of insects would provide business and export opportunities for poor people in developing countries, especially women, who are often tasked with collecting bugs in rural communities.(Adapted from ABC News) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)