Environmental Issues and Overpopulation Solutions: Is Eating Crickets and Cockroaches the Answer?
Would Eating Bugs Bug You?
You probably find the idea of chowing down on some fried crickets or sautéed water bug pretty disgusting. Chocolate dipped raisins, on the other hand, sound pretty tasty, don’t they? Well, how about if I told you there could be whole insects, insect fragments, and/or insect eggs in that delicious snack? In fact, all of these and more (such as rodent hairs or mammalian excreta) may be present in many of the things you eat, every day, in FDA-determined allowable amounts. You may need to take a sip of coffee while you let that sink in…only do so knowing that the FDA also allows bugs, “insect filth” and mold in coffee beans in levels of less than 10% (sorry!). And, now, if you think you need a gulp of something even stronger, you should be aware that there may also be up to 2,500 aphids per 10 grams in that beer…
The purpose of revealing this isn’t to convince you never to eat (or drink) again, but rather in hopes of opening your mind to entomophagy, or the ingestion of insects. After all, you’re already eating (and drinking) them, and most likely are doing just fine (although presently you may feel a tad bit sick to your stomach as you get used to the idea).
You May Not Have A Choice...
It is pretty much just the western world where insects are viewed as creepy crawly nasty things and not as a potential food source; roughly 2 billion people include bugs as staples in their diet on a daily basis, and have for countless generations (IFLscience.com). From Asia to Africa to Australia to South America, people enjoy the taste of crickets and worms. As there are around 2,000 edible species, they may be prepared to deliver countless sweet or savory flavors and crunchy or tender textures, though the most popular dishes highlight beetles, bees, ants, caterpillars, and wasps.
Now, you may be wondering why this is important. Why in the world should you care that bugs are edible, let alone buy into the idea of willingly consuming them, when you’d much rather have a burger or a pork chop? Well, many experts believe that soon you will have little choice in the matter. As the world population continues to explode and each subsequent generation further demolishes available resources, modern life as we know it will be unsustainable without alternative food sources.
Overpopulation and Environmental Issues
The world population is nearing 8 billion people; it has doubled in a little over 40 years and grows at a rate of over 140 people every minute (worldpopulationbalance.org). Projections claim that by the year 2050 we will have 9 billion people on the planet and need to create twice the food to feed them all.
How we are going to do this exactly is a mystery. As we continually overfish the seas and overhunt the land, wild animals are now less than half as plentiful as they were 50 years ago. We already use 70% of available agricultural lands for livestock and this land decreases by 75 million acres annually due to intensive farm practices, erosion, and urbanization. It is a devastating fact that soil presently erodes at rates of 10 to 40 times faster than it can be created.
Climate changes or diseases may decimate an entire crop or herd. Not to mention, the machines used to process crops and livestock use lots of energy and produce considerable waste which can damage the environment and/or poison animals and plants. Add to this further the problem of water shortages, as only 1% of Earth’s water is fresh and useable and by 2025 70% of it will be needed for the basic requirements for life, and it is clear that the future will require innovative new ways to meet increased demands as resources virtually vanish.
This is why experts have turned their attention to the insect, or more specifically, to the farming and marketing of insects as a food source to support the swelling population. Unlike typical livestock raised today, bugs are considered more sustainable, yet still a great (some argue an even superior) option nutritionally.
Compared to cows, pigs, and chickens insects require less heat and energy because they self-regulate their internal temperatures as cold-blooded animals. They also utilize less land. Bug farms can easily stack housing vertically and in exceptionally space-effective ways not possible with other larger animals. Not only do they need less space, but they also reproduce much more quickly and live for shorter periods of time, providing more product, faster, utilizing fewer resources.
Further, bugs eat less and can consume wastes that other animals cannot in addition to having a high feed to growth ratio. Crickets require only 2 kg of feed versus cattle’s 8kg of feed needed to grow 1 kg of meat; additionally, 80% of cricket meat is edible while only 40% of cattle meat is. This means less overall feed must be cultivated to support an insect population than is required currently for traditional livestock. Insects may even themselves be used as feed for other animals.
Bugs are also superior to other animals in that they produce less greenhouse gas. They release smaller quantities of both methane and ammonia, both of which have been linked to unfavorable climate changes. Cattle produce alarming amounts and may be responsible for devastating changes in the ozone.
Not to mention, people are much less likely to develop diseases passed on to them from an insect as opposed to a bird or mammal. This also makes them safer, especially as some argue that the abuse of antibiotics within the agricultural community has reduced the natural immunity of livestock to disease, including those that can be transferred to humans with sometimes deadly consequences.
They're GREAT For You
Though small, insects pack a hefty nutritional punch. They have a high amount of fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber and minimal carbohydrate content. Termites are almost three quarters protein, while other insects may be as much as 80%. Comparing crickets to beef, crickets have 205 grams per kg of protein whereas beef has 256; not bad for a highly underappreciated 6-legged creature. Mealworms measure up to fish in their fatty omega 3 content, while easily surpassing both beef and pork. Caterpillars and locusts, with 31mg iron/100g and 20mg iron/100g respectively, have more iron by weight than beef, with a mere 6mg iron/100g.
Insects are all-natural and mostly free of the genetic modification, hormone treatments, and antibiotic exposure that other animals often experience. They could be great additions to a paleo or ketogenic lifestyle. It is just cultural prejudices that hold back western society from enjoying a nutritious, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly bug-based meal.
Yuck or Yum?
So what do they taste like, you may be wondering. Termites are minty, stink bugs have the flavor of apples, sago grubs taste of bacon, and scorpions resemble the flesh of fish. Giant water bugs are surprisingly compared to melon or salty banana and tarantulas have similarities to crab or shrimp.
Want to try some insects and see for yourself? Throw some all-purpose cricket flour into your next batch of baked goods or chow down on freeze-dried scorpions as a crunchy snack. And, you can always give out bug-filled lollipops to your little ones as an extra-special treat. All of these, and more, are available for online purchase.
IFLSCIENCE!, (n.d.). Will We All Be Eating Insects In 50 Years? Retrieved from http://www.iflscience.com/environment/will-we-all-be-eating-insects-50-years/
Renewable Resources Coalition, 6 December, 2016. Overpopulation: The Causes, Effects and Potential Solutions. Retrieved from https://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/overpopulation-causes-effects-solutions/
Whitman, Honor., 22 June 2016. Grub’s up! How eating insects could benefit health. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311139.php