If you squirm whilst watching celebrities eat witchetty grubs, then perhaps edible insects are not for you. But if you want to eat sustainably (and you have an open mind), they could be your future food.
Worming Their Way In – A New Sustainable Food Source
In January 2018 a new EU ruling came into effect that now makes it possible for us to get our hands on some new grub. By that I mean actual grubs! Insects are now considered safe to eat as they’re covered by the ‘novel food regulation’.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a paper in 2015 outlining the benefits of insects as a food source for us and for animal feed.
The environmental benefits alone may convince you to swap crisps for crickets, but they’re tasty and nutritious too. Read on for a roundup of some of the most interesting new snacks hitting the shops and why they are worth a try.
A Bug’s Life – The Benefits of Insects
Insects are packed with protein. For example, 65% of a cricket is made up of protein. This is higher than beef, which is only 50% protein. Bugs are also low in saturated fat and are a valuable source of vitamins and minerals.
As well as providing vital nutrients, insect farming is more sustainable than cattle farming. In fact, it is possible that an insect farm could have an environmental footprint of almost zero. (Depending on the processes used.)
Insects are extremely efficient at converting resources into food. It takes around 2kg of insect feed to produce 1kg of edible cricket meat. This is significantly less than the 8kg of cattle feed required to produce 1kg of beef.
This means that eating tiny insects rather than livestock means less land is needed to produce feed. It also means a reduction in the amount of water required to irrigate feed crops and to keep the insects hydrated. In addition to being smaller than cattle, insects are used to living in close proximity to one another so they need much less space to live. Using insects for fish and animal feed reduces the need for fishmeal too, which increases the availability of fish for us to consume.
Also, 80% of a cricket is edible whereas only 40% of a cow is. That’s much more bug for your buck!
There are ethical benefits too! Eating more insects could mean positive change for those who gather, process and sell them. This work is often carried out in developing countries by those who have little economic or political power. The more popular insects become, the higher the price. This helps to improve the livelihoods of those in some of the world’s most marginalised communities.
For many of us, eating insects isn’t appealing, despite the nutritional and sustainability benefits. But the truth is, we could already be consuming insects. Bugs can be found in anything from food colouring to beer. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes legal limits of insects in food. 20 maggots per 100g of tinned mushrooms or 11 rodent hairs per 50g of cinnamon are perfectly legal!
Luckily, the British Food Standards Agency state that “in EU Food Law there are no allowable limits of foreign bodies in food.” So the great thing is, for the most part, we can be in control of the bugs we consume.
Critter Cuisine – Where to Get Your Grub
If you’re intrigued by edible insects and fancy trying them, here’s where you can start:
Down in One – Crunchy Critters
If you want to go head first – bush tucker style – into eating whole insects, Crunchy Critters are for you. They are ‘the leading supplier of internationally sourced edible insects and arachnids in the UK’.
Crunchy Critters encourage holding your own Bush Tucker Event to try their various delicacies. Everything has been freeze dried, dehydrated, pressure cooked or fried. (Meaning there’s nothing live or wiggly!) Their bestsellers are their crickets and mealworms. You can even try some ‘Frankenstein Fudge’- buttery fudge with added buffalo worms.
Powdered Down – Nutri Bug
For most of us, the issue with eating insects is that we can see what we are eating. (For those of us that eat meat, if we had to process it ourselves would we still be up for eating it?)
More palatable options include pasta and protein powders made from roasted and ground crickets from Nutri Bug. They’re nutrient dense, packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and omega 3.
Cool and Creative – Eat Grub and Jimini’s
Eat Grub make insects look seriously cool. They have exotic flavoured products such as their Smoky BBQ Roasted Crickets. It would be easy to mistake their range for everyday protein bars and crisps, but they are far from average. The website is full of recipe ideas too – Mealworm Margarita anyone?
Taking the idea of insect recipes to the next level is Jimini’s. As well as insect bars and snacks they offer a cook range for you to cook your own insects!
Flying Into the Future
With so many choices, it seems like there are no excuses for not giving critters a try. I was skeptical when first researching this new food, but now even I may be up for trying a BBQ cricket or two.
If you are striving for a more sustainable lifestyle then insects are definitely worth considering. Even if only for a healthy snack or two. If you’re braver and fancy pulling out some bush tucker at your next dinner party, it would be a great talking point!
Reducing our environmental footprint means giving this beautiful planet a helping hand. Trying a few bugs to support sustainability doesn’t seem so bad, does it?