So it seems that insects are well and truly on the menu for us in the not too distant future, it’s not so much a matter of ‘will’ we start eating insects (known as entomophagy) here in the UK, but more so ‘when’! With major production plants already in full flow in the Netherlands, insects are cheap, and are therefore a ‘locust’ (sorry, couldn’t resist) way of producing protein…and now, oils that are suitable for human consumption.
Unlikely to ‘fly’ off the shelves
^^Sorry^^ (it’s too easy)…Although mass production of insect protein and their respective oil by-products are well and truly underway. Manufacturers are remaining realistic about the reception the likes of cockroach oil, flour maggot oil and caterpillar oil might receive, however they are confident that certain insect oils taste better, and are far more tolerable by humans than others.
Are all ok for human consumption?
It does appear that pretty much all of the insect oils out there are safe for human consumption (unless there are some obscure, deadly varieties of course), but some are more suited to this than others. Take cockroach oil as an example, the oil is described as having a distinct vomit smell, and then there is the negative connotations attached to the sewer dwelling, rotten corpse crawling cockroach. Instead then, the oil extracted from cockroaches can be used in the likes of paint or other industrial items, but drizzled on your salad, you might be best trying grasshopper or soldier fly.
Apparently the humble grasshopper and soldier fly exudes a pleasant, fruity aroma and would be far more agreeable from a palatability point of view in the western world. Although consumed far less frequently on a global basis (approx. 13%) compared to beetles (31%), caterpillars (18%), and even bees, wasps and ants (14%) (yep, people have eaten these critters for millennia), the grasshopper and soldier fly may well become a staple in the not too distant future.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report
An original study by the FAO reported that insect consumption is nothing new, in fact, insects are pretty darn popular around the rest of the world! Insects are consumed as part of traditional diets by at least 2 billion people (yes, that’s billion with a ‘b’).
There are currently in excess of 1,900 species of insect used as food, and this figure is set to grow bow that we understand the financial viability and surprising nutritional value and versatility of insects. The protein derived from insects is thought to be on a par with that of beef or poultry, insects provide the 8 essential amino acids, as well as B vitamins, and a plethora of minerals. If you think about it, eating an insect is similar to eating a crushed up chicken (something you wouldn’t fancy doing in your local KFC restaurant) in the sense that you are consuming flesh, bone and organs. The consumption of the whole creature means we are getting all of the nutrient goodness that comes with organ flesh... maybe a little gross to some, but true all the same.
What it means for the environment
The mass consumption of meat is becoming a burden to our environment. The growing population is already far beyond the desirable limit, and feeding a hungry planet is becoming more and more difficult. Mass producing meat is expensive, unhealthy and environmentally disastrous, livestock contributes around 17-18% of greenhouse gases from their production, transport and flatulence (farts). Conversely insects are leave a much smaller carbon footprint, they are fed on organic waste products of beer production (which means we get more beer…lads!!), and according to the FAO, (2014) crickets require 6 times less feed than cattle, 4 times less than sheep, and 2 times less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein.
It really does seem a no-brainer to me, we are living in a world that needs sustainable food and fuel sources, and it seems to me that the only way we can realistically achieve that right now is via the amazing insect. Stay tuned for the ‘swarm’ (oi oi, there’s another one for ya) of insect proteins that will inevitably hit our shelves!
So after all this talk of food, I’m going to get myself some ‘grub’ (sorry, had to be done).
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, (2014). Who is who in the world of insects as food and feed? Retrieved 3rd Sept, 2015, from http://www.fao.org/forestry/edibleinsects/en/
Food Navigator.com, (2015). Insect Oil: Bugs aren’t just about protein. Retrieved 3rd Sept, 2015, from http://www.foodnavigator.com/Sectors/Healthy-foods/Insect-oil-Bugs-aren-t-just-about-protein