In the Western world, the idea of eating insects makes people squeamish. However over 2 billion people around the world eat insects regularly to supplement their diet. The practice is known as entomophagy and provides high protein, fat, and mineral nutrition. Insects are part of a staple diet in Africa, Asia and Latin America and consumed because of their good taste, according to a report from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Weaver ant eggs are a treat in parts of Southeast Asia and mopane caterpillars are a delicacy in southern Africa.
In the West, the practice of eating insects is catching up. A few weeks ago, I visited a restaurant here in the United States, and I was pleasantly surprised that they offered grasshopper tacos, which I ordered and enjoyed. Globally more than 1900 insect species are edible, beetles being most common, followed by caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets. Dishes featuring bugs are becoming popular as they appear in trendy spots around the United States. For example, a top selling concession item at the home of the Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners is a 4-ounce cup of toasted grasshoppers served with chili lime salt seasoning. An East Village restaurant in New York City offers many insects infused dishes, such as black ant guacamole, and the salt they use is mixed with ground ants.
Beyond the novelty, insects offer heart-healthy nutrition due to high levels of vitamin B12, iron, zinc, essential amino acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and antioxidants. Insects can be raised in layers in climate-controlled facilities offering the possibility of operating year-round. A company in London, Ontario, is building a state-of-the-art facility that will be the world’s largest cricket farm.
There are several products currently on the market that feature bugs, such as cricket powder and cricket protein bars. Using insect ingredients is one strategy that is now being employed to remove the stigma of eating insects in the Western countries. The more we make insects products look like what we are used to at home, the more likely that people would accept insects as a staple diet.