Insects: Our Food For The Future?

Mar 17, 2016 04:20 AM EDT | By Chandan Das

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While "insect foods" is yet to become a trend in North America, many people are gradually changing their menu and consuming insects in view of the soaring prices of animal protein and food security becoming an increasing problem.

Contrary to the Americans' aversion to eating "insect foods," about two million people in places like neighboring Mexico and a vast area in the Asian continent consume insects as a regular diet. In fact, most of the insects consumed by people worldwide comprise crickets, wasps, locusts, grasshoppers and even ants, CBC quoted Yde Jongema, an entomologist at the Wageningen University.

Interestingly, people in the rural areas of Oaxaca in Mexico are said to among the most prolific bug-eaters and they have been consuming "chapulines" or grasshoppers for several centuries. They have been consuming these insects since much before the Spanish invasion. However, these are not the common grasshoppers, but partially domesticated chapulines collected from agricultural fields where Oaxacans grow alfalfa and maize.

There are a number of benefits of consuming bugs. They not only lessen the impact on the environment, they also contain as much protein compared to meat. The U.N., as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization, have certified that compared to 26 gram of protein from 100 grams ground beef, 100 grams of cricket provides us with 21-gram protein.

Even the process is less exhaustive since insects use less land and water compared to other animal protein sources. It also possesses a huge potential for supplying the much-needed protein to the world.

However, the major obstacle faced by the insect industry is the fear factor. While people in the West have a loathing for entomophagy, eating bugs has become popular in most developing nations and now it is seen as a survival mechanism, FAO stated in 2013.

Till recently, consuming insects was a stunt rather than a trend in the Western culture. But things seem to be changing, as the idea of eating crickets is gradually becoming more palatable to the Americans. For instance, Exo, a Brooklyn company that makes nutrition bars using crickets, successfully raised $4 million in a Series A funding headed by Accelfoods. Interestingly, the investors include rapper Nas, author Tim Ferris and athlete Amelia Boone, Food Business News reported.

Another brand at Expo West, San Francisco-based Bitty Foods also introduced Chiridos, a snack chips line made with lentils and cricket flour at the Expo West. These snack chips are said to contain thrice the protein of conventional chips. In addition, Bitty Foods also offers cricket-based baking flour and cookies made with cricket flour in flavors like cocoa chai, chocolate chip and orange ginger.

While awareness about the benefits of consuming insects has certainly increased in America, many producers are of the opinion much more education is required to make consumers opt for this healthy protein alternative. 

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