Originally lobster was regarded as a dirty creature, unfit for human consumption. It was only seen as fertilizer and, at best, poor people’s food. Fast forward a few hundred years and this crustacean is a highly saught after food source, enjoyed by millions, and bringing with it notions of luxury and fine dining. Could this be the same for edible insects?
A diet enjoyed by millions around the globe, edible insects are quickly becoming a popular substitute for protein. A new generation of chefs, farmers, sustainability experts, foodies, and the United Nations are all embracing entomophagy (eating insects). But why is this?
A healthy alternative…
The main reason behind why many people are choosing to switch to an insect rich diet is due to them being a healthy alternative to meat. A little known fact is that Insects are high in protein, B vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc. They are also quite low in fat.
Looking at them you wouldn’t suspect that these creepy crawlies are packed full of protein. The average insect is around half protein by dry weight! Offering a high amount of protein is what has made edible insects increasingly popular.
- 100g of grasshoppers can carry up to 20.6g of protein. ₄
- 100g of crickets contain more protein than wild atlantic salmon. ₂
- There is around 55.43g of protein per 100g of cooked mealworms. ₁
- Caterpillars pack 28g of protein per 100g. ₅
- There is roughly around 20.5g of protein for every 100g of termites. ₆
The high amount of protein found in edible insects has lead to many companies creating protein bars using insects as the main ingredient. The rise in popularity of entomophagy and the awareness it has created around the health benefits has lead to many startup companies being crowdfunded on the internet for cricket protein bars.
The main ingredient in these insect infused protein bars is cricket flour. This due to its high protein percentage, offering a great substitute for regular flour.
Another advantage of cricket flour is that it is not an isolated protein source, nor is it highly processed. This means that due the production process of these popular protein bars, there is no processed flavouring being masked by syrups and artificial sweeteners ₇. This makes cricket protein bars a lot healthier than the usual ones you’ll find in your local supermarket.
Not only have edible insects been proven to contain a valid, strong, source of protein but they are also great for energy as well as meeting the amino acid requirements of humans.
Edible insects have also been proven to contain essential micronutrients such as:
- zinc ₈
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On top of their protein and nutrient value, edible insects are also known to be loaded with vitamins, especially vitamin B. Through intensive research it has been discovered that a whole range of insects contain anywhere between 0.1mg to 4mg of Vitamin B per 100g, whilst also contain 0.11mg to 8.9mg of Vitamin B2 per 100g ₈. It is also suggested that edible insects also contain the same levels of Vitamin B12 as fish, whilst also being full of good fats such as Omega 3 ₁₀.
As discussed briefly in our previous pestaurant blog post, edible insects are a superior sustainable food source than beef or chicken.
A Cheap source of Food
One of the main advantages of edible insects, on top of their exceptional health benefits, is that they are an extremely cheap source of food. This is mainly due to their cost efficient manner in regards to an agricultural setting, needing less feed and space to farm.
The amount of feed it takes to farm edible insects is one of the main contributing factors behind them being a cheap source of food. Being much smaller in size compared to meat, edible insects rely on far less food to be raised. On average, insects can convert 2 kilograms (4.4lb) of feed into 1 kilogram (2.2lb) of insect mass. In comparison, cattle require 8 kilograms (17.6lb) of feed to produce a kilo of meat ₄.
On top of the small amount of feed needed to produce edible insects, these critters are also far more economically friendly in terms of farming. Due to their small size, edible insects do not rely on a huge area to be farmed. Instead they can be stacked vertically in their nesting containers, optimising the farming space.
Compared to other sources of live protein, edible insects have a very short life span, an average cricket might live 2-3 months ₁. Other types of edible insects can be enjoyed in both their larvae and pupae stage. This means that in the same amount of time it takes to raise one cattle for human consumption, multiple edible insects can be farmed, generating a high amount of protein in a short time span.
Not only are edible insects cheaper to farm, but they are also more environmentally friendly. Compared to cattle and other sources of meat they have a very low carbon footprint.
Compared to livestock insects produce far less methane, being more beneficial to the environment. It has also been noted that edible insects also emit far less carbon dioxide per unit of weight gained than beef.
Why Edible Insects?
So why should you introduce edible insects into your diet? We’ve seen throughout this blog many beneficial factors of edible insects from their protein and vitamin rich nature to their agricultural and environmental benefits.
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However, we know that although many people around the world enjoy an insect rich diet, it is still seen as a taboo by many, especially within western civilisation. That’s why at Rentokil we started Pestaurant. This year the event will be held on the 3rd of June in over 10 counties worldwide!
The main idea behind Pestaurant is to advertise the health benefits of edible insects, whilst also providing the public with some delicious meals and snacks using insects as the main ingredient.
Interested in getting your teeth stuck into some edible insects? Then download the Pestaurant Cookbook – It’s free! .
₂. Edible by Daniella Martin
₃. Ecological Implications of Minilivestock: Potential of Insects, Rodents, Frogs and Snails
₄. UN Food & Agriculture Organisation