In most countries, insects are often considered as pests, which is a source of disease and torment with the whole industries dedicated to their extinction. But in fact, these small creatures might be the key to our looming food crisis all over the world, since the food supply must double to feed an estimated population of 9 billion people by 2050.
Currently, about 1.5 billion people eat edible insects around the globe, primarily in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, where this practice has been remaining for a thousand year, according to the latest report by FAO ( the Food and Agriculture Organization). On average, humans already take in unintentionally an estimated one pound of insect per year, which is mixed in with other food sources. The most widely consumed insects include beetles, bees, caterpillars, ants, and wasps.
Here are five reasons why the so-called “mini food source” is such a great choice for the environment and our health:
1. Insects Provide Essential Nutrients
Many studies have proven that adult grasshoppers and locusts have a high level of protein compared to raw beef (although the levels of fiber, fat, and protein may vary by preparation and species). In most insect-eating countries, edible insects make up a considerable portion of the necessary daily amount of essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, and protein.
2. Insects Emit Fewer Greenhouse Gases
Traditional livestock rearing accounts for nearly 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions all over the world, which exceeds emissions by the transportation industry. In general, both industries release far more greenhouse gases than locust, cricket, and mealworm producers. What’s more, insects emit much less methane and ammonia than cattle and pigs.
Currently, rearing insects consumes much less water and land than cattle-rearing. And it is also an effective way to make use of the organic wastes.
3. Bring a Lot of Economic Benefits
As food prices have been increasing quickly all over the world, the expense of cattle feed has weighed down many farmers and risen meat prices. As they are naturally cold-blooded, edible insects need less energy to keep warm and thus are more efficient in converting foods into protein. What’s more, the cost of producing or gathering insects just as the practice in many developing countries at a large scale is pretty low.
4. Less Likely to Cause Health Issues
In terms of taxonomy, insects are distant from the human, which can reduce the probability of transmitting diseases. This is a good thing at the time era when there are so many food-borne illnesses such as mad-cow disease or H5N1. Even so, mass rearing and producing livestock can come with some risks of unknown diseases.
5. They Are Everywhere
You can find edible insects living in water, farmland, and forests. Even though the climate change and habitat destruction make the exact population uncertain, it is estimated to have more than 1800 edible species of insect in the world. Therefore, a gradual change to insects and the addition of these small species into our daily meals can be an effective way to deal with the food crisis in many developing countries.