- Food and Cooking
Cockroach Farms and the Future of Insects in the Food Industry
It is common in most cultures of the world. Eating them is not deadly. It does not harm the body. In fact, they are a rich source of vitamins and proteins which might categorize them as nutritious. But a big "YUCK!" is often the response of people when shown dishes that include insects.
As we know, the world's human population is getting out of control. In a world of limited resources, this means that we have to conserve for our environment. We have to hold back on activities that require unnecessary consumption of our scarce resources. And we sometimes have to find alternatives that are more environmentally friendly. One of these limited resources, that is directly related to the size of our population, is food.
An Insect Dish
New Food Source
Our food sources consist mainly of crops, livestock, and fisheries. Often these require much space and time. Crops are subject to pest infestations and using pesticides and fertilizers may be costly. Unexpected natural disasters also greatly affect the harvest. Livestock emit greenhouse gases and other pollutants. They are also subject to some diseases that sadly sometimes affect humans. Oceans are now overfished and various oil spills around the globe have dealt damage to our aquatic resources, which will take much time to recover.
But brace yourselves as minilivestock takes on the spotlight! Minilivestock is a term used to refer to the farming or breeding of edible insects and anthropods for human consumption. (Human consumption of insects is scientifically termed as entomophagy. Insectivore, on the other hand, is a term that is used to refer to animals that consume insects.) Actually, humans have intentionally cultivated insects for many years now. There are farms in northern and southern Thailand that grow crickets and palm weevil larvae. Cockroach farms are also a source of income for some Chinese farmers. This venture requires less capital and as we all know cockroaches are tough and they multiply fast. These cockroaches are often pulverized and sold to companies that use their powder for therapeutic or medicinal products. But eating insects is not that uncommon in China. In fact some insects and scorpions are offered in the streets to be eaten. There are also farms in the Western world for crickets and mealworms, like those in Louisiana and California, although they are mainly bought as feeds. But no one will stop the more daring customers from trying to cook them and transform them into bite-sized snacks. Websites featuring insect snacks, like thailandunique.com, may also be visited online. They offer delicacies like chocolate coated grasshoppers and scorpion lollipops. Books such as Julieta Ramos-Elorduy's Creepy Crawly Cuisine have also been published. The author even enumerated the most eaten insects of the world.
There are Advantages to Eating Insects
Some of you might disapprove of this but, in fact, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization has published a paper encouraging people to consider insects as an alternative food source. Different advantages to entomophagy exist. Insects are safe to eat and they are related to shrimps. There are about 1500 known species of anthropods, including arachnids, that are edible to humans. A combination of these species will make it possible for a thousand new dishes and recipes involving insects to be formulated. They convert proteins more efficiently than animal livestock and they use less resources and emit less pollutants. Insect droppings are also dry and are ideal fertilizers. And instead of using pesticides, farmers might catch the insects to be sold--a new source of income. Insects are also very rich in proteins, a deficiency of which is a major source of malnutrition in children.
So, they are safe to eat, nutritious, faster to grow, and less costly than other food sources. What now is the problem? Well, people, especially in Western cultures, are not used to the idea of eating insects. Usually, insects are sprayed with insecticides that we always buy from supermarkets to keep them away from our food; we do not buy insects AS our food. It is mostly the appearance that will disgust us, not the insects themselves. In fact, almost all of us have eaten insect-derived products. Therefore, if the time comes that it is inevitable for us to consume insects, I am sure that chefs around the world will make them look good on our plates. We must have an open mind with regards matters like this.
Although, of course, it is also true that food is not all about nutrition. It is also about preference. Vegetarians do not eat meat; some religions encourage people to abstain from certain dishes; and some of us might prefer not to eat insects. But people who have eaten them say they are delicious. How about you? Won't you try some?