Eating edible insects? And why not ? What if you change your eating habits and introduce entomophagy into your diet?
The consumption of insects is already widespread in many countries of the world, but it is still very rare in Europe. Many are still put off by the physical and psychological aspect of this food. Yet, an insect is as delicious in terms of taste as it is good for health and the environment.
To learn more about entomophagy, we invite you to read our complete guide: discover behind the scenes of entomoculture and how insects are raised and produced, get to know the main families of edible insects (crickets , grasshoppers, worms, etc.), discover the virtues of entomophagy and the precautions to take before consuming insects. Finally, discover some recipe ideas to diversify your dishes and surprise your guests at your next meal!
Entomoculture: what you need to know
Entomoculture refers to the breeding of insects. If you do not see insect farms on the roadside near you, it’s certainly because you live in a western country. In other countries in Africa, Asia and Central America, insect farming is widespread and common.
The different goals of entomoculture
The breeding of insects can have several goals:
Utilitarian farming: Insects can contribute to the production of certain products of everyday life. This is particularly the case of honey with bees or silkworms for textiles (and therefore silk).
Organic farming: some insects are introduced and raised in a medium to hunt for other pests. This is the case of ladybirds and trichogramma (mini-wasps) for example.
A pedagogic and scientific breeding: in this case, breeding is used to study the behavior of insects in an environment.
A food farm: insects are raised to feed animals (reptiles, birds, etc.) or humans.
Entomoculture: an alternative to classical agriculture
Entomoculture is common in nearly 90 countries around the world. It develops in countries where entomophagy is inscribed in the culture or in countries where meat is scarce and very expensive.
Indeed, insects are rich in nutrients and especially proteins. They allow to replace meat while providing the same amounts of protein (and sometimes more). In addition, entomoculture is much less polluting than some other agricultural sectors, the breeding of insects emitting much less greenhouse gases than a cattle breeding for example.
As meat is a scarce and expensive commodity in some countries, entomoculture is a serious option to fight malnutrition and famine in some poor countries.
Entomoculture in the world
There are different types of farms around the world. Some are very modest, they are often family farms. The insects are then sold on the markets or on the roadside.
But there are much more industrialized farms. In China, in particular, there are insect factories for human consumption. This is, for example, the case of bamboo worms or dried larva plants that the Chinese love.
There are even large industrial groups specialized in entomoculture: Six Food, Tiny Farm, etc. Some companies have even specialized in exporting products to the West. Indeed, more and more North American and European restaurants are playing the card of originality by offering insects in their menu. In general, Westerners are more and more curious and have become more interested in entomoculture in recent years.
Under this new impulse, some Western countries are learning about entomoculture and creating new farms for human consumption. The entomoculture is indeed a practice strongly encouraged by the UN. Thus, the Netherlands is the first to have turned to the breeding of mealworms as food for animals, but also for humans. France is slowly starting to learn also with some local breedings. There is even a federation of breeders: the FFPIDI (French Federation of Producers and Importers of Edible Insects).
To learn more, also discover our article on entomoculture techniques.
The different types of edible insects
Eat insects yes, but be careful to choose them! All insects are not edible! Some edible insects will have a more pronounced taste than others, which is why it is interesting to look at different families of edible insects.
Coleoptera are the most consumed family of insects in the world. This family includes:
Beetles: its taste is very close to that of shrimp.
The palm weevil: very rich in fat, the weevil is appreciated for its taste of cheese.
The chafer: very crisp, the chafer has flavors similar to popcorn and grilled bacon.
The mealworms (mealworm): present in wheat flour, mealworms have a taste of chips and grilled chicken.
Are you arachnophobic? Be aware that some insects belonging to the family of arachnids have real taste assets. This is particularly the case:
Tarantulas: great for an aperitif, tarantulas are crispy pasta and soft in the abdomen. As for taste, tarantulas have a shellfish aftertaste.
Scorpions: if you love shrimp, the scorpions will satisfy you because its taste is very similar.
Lepidoptera are nothing more or less than the insect family of butterflies. Most of the larvae of butterflies (caterpillars) are consumed. We find in particular:
The mopane caterpillar: this caterpillar is very popular in Asia.
Maguey Worms: These worms are true treats for Mexican farmers.
The bamboo caterpillar: high protein, the bamboo caterpillar has a taste of corn and cheese.
The family of edible Hymenoptera includes:
Weaver Ants: These popular ants have a tangy and spicy taste.
Ants eggs: they are in tin form in Thailand, where they are very popular.
Wasps ‘larvae: Wasps’ larvae are also called hebo and are a real treat for the Japanese.
Bee brood: Brood refers to larvae, eggs and nymphs. Bee brood is an excellent source of energy.
On the Orthoptera side, we find:
Locusts: Locusts are usually eaten on a skewer.
Grasshoppers: Most grasshoppers are edible and their tastes are similar to grilled bacon and potato.
Crickets: this insect is appreciated for its nutty and almond flavor.
Some homopteran insects are edible like:
The cicada: this insect has a very nice nutty flavor.
The cochineal cactus: cochineal is used to make carmine, a natural food coloring.
Among the edible heteropterous insects, we find in particular the giant water bug. The giant water bug is for example very often compared to grilled prawns.
Let’s finish with the family of isoptera and more exactly with termites. Termites are very nutritious and high protein insects.
They can be eaten as well in main course as in accompaniment.
Why eat insects is it beneficial?
In addition to the innovative aspect of entomophagy in Western cultures, this diet has many virtues both for the environment and for the health of everyone.
The benefits of entomophagy for the environment
Choosing entomoculture means taking the side of:
Reducing the greenhouse gas emission rate of farms: insect farms pollute much less than beef or hog farms.
Reduce waste disposal: An insect farm emits little waste and can be reused as fertilizer.
Thus, entomoculture is a real alternative to conventional agriculture, which is increasingly criticized for the pollution it generates. If more people choose to add insects to their plates in order to reduce their meat consumption, this would be beneficial and would reduce the risks of intensive farming.
An interesting investment
Opting for the breeding of insects also has beneficial aspects in financial terms:
Space saving: insect farms require much less area than cattle or pig farms.
Reproductive speed: the reproductive cycle in insects is much faster, which increases its yield quickly.
A more attractive investment cost: the infrastructure needed to grow insects is much cheaper than that required for conventional farming.
Eating insects: the virtues for health
The advantages of entomophagy do not stop there! Not only it allows to change the consumption habits of Western countries in respect of the environment, but it also helps promote the health of entomovores:
- Insects are rich in protein.
- Most of them do not have saturated fat. Thus the fat contained in insects is considered “good fat”.
- Insects are rich in vitamins (A, B1, B2, K)
- They are also a source of calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
Thus, insects are truly a health asset for entomovores.
New flavors for the palate
Finally, the interest of eating insects is also to be able to vary a little more its food. Thus, the discovery of new flavors is a reason for many people to taste locusts, crickets or mealworms.
While some insects may come close to known taste such as hazelnut, almond or bacon, others offer new flavors to the palate.
Recipe ideas based on edible insects
We understand that the appearance of insects can cool more than one! However, insects can be prepared like any other ingredient to sublimate and make you want to be eaten. You would not eat a chicken if it was not previously prepared for consumption? For insects it’s the same thing.
Aperitif, starter, main dish and even dessert, insects are very easy to invite to your plates to make them more original!
Appetizers for the snack
For the aperitif: this is certainly how insects are most enjoyed in Western countries. They can be a fun challenge for friends at a party or simply replace appetizer cakes stuffed with palm oil and other controversial substances.
Eating insects during the aperitif can be a good way to learn more original food!
For the aperitif, insects are often prepared with herbs or spices like chips, for example. Once dehydrated, the insects will be crisp. The crunchy insects will find sensations similar to other dishes traditionally tasted during the aperitif.
Insects can also be soaked in sauces and take their place in the finger food family! Accompanied by a good glass of wine, the edible insects will be delicious.
Insects in your dishes
Insects can also replace the meat usually added in traditional recipes. Give free rein to your imagination and replace bacon bits with mealworms or beef with locusts!
Soup, quiche, cake, tortilla: everything goes! You can also accompany the insects that often have the taste of crustaceans with some vegetables for even more flavor. Do not hesitate to season the insects to your taste with herbs or spices. By dint of testing, you will find the flavors that get married together!
Adding insects to dishes you know will also allow you to become comfortable with entomophagy if you still have some misgivings.
A sweet touch
The advantage of insects is that they can be prepared as salty as they are sweet! Thus, the insects can be added to the cake.
There is even some cricket flour that can be mixed with wheat flour!
Why not add some insects to your pancakes the next time you eat them? Or replace the traditional chocolate chips of your cookies with mealworms?
Where to buy edible insects?
Are you convinced of the virtues of entomophagy? Curious to know the taste of insects? Do you want to buy a few bags of insects now?
How to buy edible insects and be sure they are good qualities? Insects are like meat on this point: it is better to learn about provenance, breeding methods, production methods and packaging methods to avoid any surprises!
Be careful not to buy any insects without knowing if they are edible. The silkworm is for example exclusively reserved for sericulture. Choose dehydrated insects sold in boxes or sachets.
Today, it is becoming easier to find edible insects:
In physical stores: There are more and more stores offering edible insects for sale. This is particularly the case for organic or nature-oriented stores.
On the internet: for a wide choice of insects, nature or prepared, internet is the best place! Head to our website to discover our range of edible and dehydrated insects.