Making Insects Tastier Could Alleviate Global Hunger
Fancy tucking into beetles, butterflies, or a stinkbug? It could just save the world.
We normally swat them away, or throw them out the window. But this expert believes that when it comes to insects, we should actually be eating them.
The ever-growing global population is putting serious pressure on traditional sources of protein — there just aren’t enough cows, sheep, and pigs to go around.
But, at the World Government Summit in Dubai, experts were exploring a new avenue of agriculture: the creepy-crawly sort.
“There are a mind-boggling number of opportunities — as there are thousands of different species,” said Kees Aarts, CEO of Dutch company Protix, which describes itself as the “leading insect company.”
“In nature, many animals feed on insects naturally so there is huge potential for farming in this area,” he said. “There are a lot of diverse, tasty, and colourful insect dishes that could be added to our plates.”
And there are lots of food reasons to get on board.
Insects are plentiful, and they’re a great source of protein both for humans and animals. They could be added to supplies of fish or chicken, could be used to make feed for livestock and domestic animals, or they could be eaten directly.
According to the National Geographic, citing “Creepy Crawly Cuisine” by biologist Julieta Ramos-Elorduy, beetles, bees and wasps, ants, grasshoppers, crickets and locusts, flies and mosquitoes, and water boatmen and backswimmers, are all among the most popular edible insects.
Butterflies and moths are also reportedly very tasty during their larval and pupal stages, like the worm you might find in your mescal. And, despite their off-putting smell, stinkbugs can apparently be used to give an apple flavour to sauces.
What’s more, raising and harvesting insects also requires significantly less land than raising more traditional sources of meat protein.
A report released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2013 noted that there are more than 1,900 edible insect species on Earth — and hundreds are types are already in diets around the world.
And — with around 2 billion people regularly eating insects, both cooked and raw — it’s really only Western countries that don’t.
It’s a crucial time to be addressing issues in the world food system. Global hunger is once again on the rise, according to the World Health Organisation, after it had been falling steadily for over a decade.
Eight countries are now reporting crisis levels of hunger and food insecurity for more than 25% of their populations. These countries are Yemen, South Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, the Central African Republic, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
This rise is largely due to conflict — as violent conflicts have increased dramatically since 2010, and are currently at an all-time high — and climate change, which is causing extreme weather conditions.
“Hunger and all forms of malnutrition will not end by 2030 unless all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition are addressed,” according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition 2017 report, released by the FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP), in January.
But experts at the World Government Summit, which came to an end on Tuesday, said governments have a vital role to play in leading populations away from traditional models of food supply, which aren’t sustainable.
Protix, which is already active in Asia, is looking to the support of these governments to help it professionalise the insect industry.
The US, as one of the largest consumers of meat, is definitely on its radar.
“This consumption is having a huge environmental impact,” continued Aarts. “Education can reduce the amount of meat consumption, and increase the use of alternative protein sources — such as insects.”
And if you’re looking to make a change, the best thing that people can do, according to Aarts, is “become curious about where their protein comes from and how they can eat more healthily.”
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