If all the insects that can be found in nature are not edible, we will see that a large number are. Entomophagy, because that’s what we call eating edible insects, is already a common food practice in some countries around the world, and more particularly in certain geographical areas of Asia, Africa or Latin America. Recent studies estimate that a third of the world’s population eats edible insects.
Beyond taste, or disgust, the food consumption of insects has many virtues, both for consumers and for respecting the environment. A finding that makes entomophagy a credible prospect for meeting the animal protein needs of the world population, which will not be able, in part, to have access to meat proper. The very serious and very official FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) has become over the years the first defender of the breeding and consumption of edible insects, multiplying the campaigns of information and encouraging many breeding projects.
Proteins, but not only
The first of the virtues of edible insects is their tremendous protein content , up to 50% for some species. Eating five large locusts represents the same protein intake as eating a beef steak, and still for comparison, insects are 9 times richer in protein than cow meat in equal quantity.
But the nutritional value of edible insects does not stop at proteins: they are also a natural source of vitamins, minerals and elements particularly useful for dietary balance and health, iron, calcium and Omega 3 and 6. In addition, these products are sources of carbohydrates, unlike meat, and allow a better fiber intake.
In addition, insects are foods that induce less cholesterol-related risks, due to their lower fat content than traditional meats, 15% on average against 50%. This nutrient balance therefore explains why the breeding and consumption of insects, in their whole form or reduced to flour, are logical solutions to meet the food needs of a world population in perpetual expansion, contrary to available resources.
An ecological hope for humanity and for the planet
Feeding humanity with edible insects is therefore today more than a hypothesis, but a reality in many countries of the world. This purely food and nutritious aspect is also complemented by farming and production methods that are much gentler and more respectful for the environment than meat production, which has a heavy and negative impact on the ecological balance of the planet.
The massive use of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and many other chemical substances is only the visible face of an iceberg that is growing every day because of global meat production. Indeed, in addition to these harmful products, the raising of animals for food purposes requires ever more water, surface and food resources, to produce ever more greenhouse gas emissions. If we add the ethical and moral aspect, increasingly highlighted by the scenes of animal cruelty visible in the chain of breeding and slaughter, we understand better why edible insects top the list of food solutions for the future.
Fewer chemicals, less water, fewer resources, less space needed for production, and 100 times less greenhouse gases emitted, for the same amount of protein produced: this is the positive picture displayed by the breeding edible insects and producing flour from them.
Entomiculture is also an opportunity for people in developing countries, offering real opportunities to these local populations. Indeed, in many areas untouched by any pollution linked to agriculture, the harvesting of insects in the wild is a possibility that allows villagers, recruited and paid by large farmers, to generate income. The proliferation of scorpion or cricket farms is also a source of development for disadvantaged regions, in China or Thailand, for example.
The FAO also highlights the high nutritional quality of insects and their possible use as food supplements to feed livestock. Soldier fly larvae, mealworms, grasshoppers and crickets have been scientifically proven to be good growth products for many animals.
Production process and edible species
Before finding edible insects on our plates, again do you need the certainty of production respecting the health standards imposed in Europe and France. It is also important to learn to know edible species better, in order to better understand them and encourage their food consumption, which often comes up against reluctance linked to the absence of this daily consumption in our western culture.
In the vast majority of cases, insect rearing is done in a 100% natural way, without the use of chemicals and without resorting to external resources, such as electricity to light the rearing areas or manage the humidity and temperature. Some producers, for example, succeed in producing and drying crickets by announcing the figure of zero electricity and water used to do so. The same quality controls as those applied to meat are carried out on edible insects, which tends to make this sector a source of healthy products without major health risks.
As for edible species, it must be recognized that they are ultimately very numerous and varied. Here is the list of the most consumed species and those that can be found most easily in France:
- Crickets, cricket meal, cicadas, weaver ants and grasshoppers are among the favorite insects of enthusiasts.
- Mealworms and crickets are the most consumed in the world.
- Black scorpion, tarantula and giant water bugs are considered the hardest to eat, due to their frightening appearance to novices.
It is also possible to obtain and eat several varieties of larvae and worms, such as those of palm or bamboo.
A salty or sweet insect?
While the vast majority of recipes based on edible insects concerns delicious savory dishes, the preparation of sweet dishes is absolutely not excluded. The predominance of the salty taste is above all due to the geographical origin of the habitual consumption of insects, essentially Asian. This is why we recommend and find ingredients also originating from Thailand, China or Cambodia to enhance entomophagous cuisine: lime, Thai basil, curry, more or less hot pepper, Japanese wasabi or even Satay sauce. However, there are no limits surrounding the use of edible insects in the kitchen and it is easily possible to integrate them into Western dishes, as a replacement for meat or to provide protein and vitamins to a dish that does not does not originally contain any.
It is also very simple to use cricket flour, mixing it with traditional flour, a way of eating insects without even noticing. This same cricket flour can be used in baking, as can locusts and other grasshoppers which provide a roasted peanut taste that can be used to make pancakes or waffles.
If you want to develop your entomophagous cooking skills, we offer click here to discover several recipes based on edible insects.
What about wild insects and potential allergies?
It’s always worth remembering to take certain precautions before consuming edible insects. First of all, you might as well immediately abandon the idea of collecting insects yourself in your garden or in French public fields and parks to eat them. Pesticides and herbicides used massively are found in the body of these insects, which is clearly a reason for non-consumption of human food.
As for allergies, people who are allergic to crustaceans and molluscs are potentially also allergic to edible insects, due to the presence of chitin in the exoskeleton of insects. So be careful if you are in this case…
You already eat bugs!
Did you know? You consume 1 kilo of insects every year, without even realizing it! However, several factors explain this unbelievable figure. First of all, it is necessary to take into account accidental ingestions which regularly occur in daily life, in addition if you practice jogging, the use of two-wheelers or outdoor sports activities. Then we must add the presence of insect fragments in many products from the food industry: cereals, legumes and flour. There is even an official standard, a rate set by the health authorities who deem the presence of 0.1% of insect fragments per mass of sample of industrial products acceptable, which still represents the equivalent of 1 gram. per kg. The addition of these first two elements results in the ingestion of 500 grams of insects, per year and per person.
The other 500 grams are linked to the industry’s use of food coloring E120, which is derived from the transformation of an insect, the cochineal. This coloring is not only found in food products (confectionery, jams, yoghurts, drinks), because it is also used by the pharmaceutical industry as a coloring for certain drugs such as cough syrups, or to manufacture supplements food.
We recommend these other pages: