Whether or not insects are the food for the future or the present is a question a friend of mine asked me. Having already written about crickets and its future in a recent article, ” The Future of Food is in Thailand and its Cricket Farms“, I found the question of particular interest.
I was hesitant to answer since I like to look at things from different perspectives and investigate the topic at hand, whichever topic it may be. I thought it would only be fitting to write an article on the subject at hand since more people might be interested in this question. And if you read this, I see it as proof of that.
For those who like a short and simple answer, yes I do wholeheartedly believe insects are the food for the present.
And the answer to whether or not insects are the food for the present is quite simple. This is because it’s almost the same as the reasons why we need it in the future.The reasoning behind this conclusion comes from the projected trajectory we all are heading towards.
However, there’s one crucial difference. That is, if we were to implement a worldwide “insects for the present” policy, the projected trajectory would go off course.
The Projected Environmental Trajectory
Land and water pollution caused by heavyhanded livestock production together with overgrazing takes us to forest degradation. And forests are the life of the planet. Simply put it the environmental footprint of livestock production is much higher than that of insect rearing.
With an astonishing 14.5 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions coming from livestock, things are not looking good.
About 70 percent of Earths agricultural land is now used for livestock, and if you count the total landmass used for livestock, it’s 30 percent. Billions of people rely on fish for proteins. Oceans are where we have as a people, for centuries at that, seen as a limitless bounty of food. For the last 50 years, global fish consumption has increased two-fold. When we catch more fish than natural reproduction can take place we end up with a little something called overfishing. Now we are in dire need to at least try and restore them. We all understand it, but not all of us are facing it. The oceans are not limitless when it comes to how much fish one can pull out of them. Unsustainable fishing is pushing a lot of fish stocks to the brink of collapse. As a matter of fact, 30 percent of the planet’s fisheries have been pushed beyond their biological limits.
All this while we add 70 million people each year to Earths population.
And if we put that in perspective, it means that we add more than one country such as The United Kingdom each year, with its 65.5 million people to our world population. It would also mean the population of the world would reach 9 billion people by the year 2050. Previously mentioned population growth will not make the situation look any better.
So, did you notice what I’ve just done?
The question “Insects- Food for the Future or the Present?” have been answered. Just by using a few easily obtainable data on the current status of our planet, my case has been made. Obviously, the answer is yes, insects are the food for the present. Of course, there are so many things negatively impacting the sustainability of our planet. However, taking one step at a time and making a well-informed decision can help us go off the projected trajectory of complete planetary meltdown. It may sound hyperbolic of me to use such strong words such as “planetary meltdown” but I don’t care.
To be completely truthful, using words like:
may sound diplomatic but I’m not a diplomat nor would I like to be one. At its core, they are words of pacification.Let’s not become pacified but see what other reasons entomophagy is the way of the present.
The Hunt for Protein
What all this actually boils down to is our relentless hunt for protein. This hunt has taken a dark turn and we are now, as stated before, headed to a planetary meltdown. We need to be able to feed ourselves and get all the nutrients that are needed for our survival. Since the growing population, it’s obvious we can’t go on like this. An alternative source of protein is very much needed.With this in mind, let’s see that Afton Halloran, a consultant for the FAO Edible Insects Programme said:
“Domesticating and rearing insects can help sustain insect populations while also helping counter nutritional insecurity and improve livelihoods,”
Actually, most insects are a good supplier of high-quality, and highly digestible protein. You’ll actually be able to find insects which are up to 80 percent protein by weight.
Just look at the cricket, my favorite bug of choice, we find that the protein content per 100 grams of fresh beef weight consists of 19-26 grams, while the cricket will give you 8-25 grams of protein per 100 grams of fresh weight. If that isn’t one more bit of information prooving insects are the food for the present, let’s look at the mackerel, which gives us 16-28 grams of protein/100 grams of fresh weight and again the cricket supplies us with an eco-friendly 8-25 grams of protein/100 grams of fresh weight. No to bad since it contains other vital nutrients as well. One such example would be the fatty acid omega-3.
In reality, the omega-3 content of crickets on a dry weight basis is comparable to that of as a salmon.
I was just as surprised as you probably are now to learn that. I personally tend to associate omega-3 with either fish or nutritional supplements. We constantly hear how important the Omega-3 fatty acid is. Which is not too surprising. You see, omega-3 fatty acids can help fight several autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis. We all want to look our best, and this is where one can benefit from omega-3. It can help you prevent things like:
- Premature aging of your skin.
- Managing oil production and hydration of the skin.
- Hyperkeratinization of hair follicles
It would most certainly be nice to be able to get this wonderful nutrient without damaging the delicate balance our oceans are in right now. Besides, oceans such as the Baltic Sea is filled with toxins. When we eat fish from these kinds of waters we not only get omega 3s, we get a lot of toxins in our body. There’s no other way of putting it, fish from these kinds of places are a danger to our health. Yet another reason to why the insects are the food for the present. There’s no real reason to why we should wait to do the things we know we should have done a long time ago. I mean, why not eat bugs? We know they have plenty of nutrients in them.
Norweigan Salmon, Vietnamese Pengas or Insects
The amazing nutrient dense cricket and other wonderful insects may not sound too appealing to you, because we are not used to seeing them as food. However, as yourself, is farmed Norwegian salmon really the tasty and nutritious food you think it is?
The short answer is a big no. It’s really toxic.
When you watch one of the more informative pieces of information on youtube such as this documentary, we get a lot of good information. Such as, Norway is a place wherein 2016, around 1.18 million metric tons of salmon were produced. A place where fish farming is a 4 billion Euro industry, and a second biggest industry after oil. When you watch documentaries and see fish in actual “fish cages” in the water being fed fish-“food” by people in “space suits” something is definitely wrong.
How can we as a people expect the fish to be safe for us to eat when the food they give the fish is so toxic the workers need protection gear?
Some of those cages are really big, just imagine circular structures each containing around 200,000 fish. According to one of the activists in the documentary, we find out something astonishing. That is, they feed the fish the same kind of chemical they used to gas people with during the first world war. I’m a big fan of the macronutrient fat. However, listen to this: A wild salmon contains 5-7 percent fat and a farmed one contains between 14.5 percent to 34 percent. It does give out warning signals, doesn’t it?
And guess what, the toxins like fat, hence the flesh of the fish absorbs more chemical residues. And according to toxicology researcher Jerome Ruzzin, referring to eating farmed fish, he states: “You simply must avoid exposure to these pollutants”. And what happened when lab rats got to eat the farmed fish salmon? Well, something we all try to avoid. They got obese and diabetic. When looking at the Vietnamese Pengas fish farms with some apparently holding up to 300 000 Pengas being fed a literal boatload of fish-food one starts to see how far we have gone. With the kind of food those fish are being fed, they grow twice as fast as they would have done in the wild.
No to mention the fact that the Mekong River is really, really polluted. Who knew dumping industrial waste in a river would make it so. And where does that pollution go? You guessed it, the fish. The fish also get sick. And what do they get? They get dangerous doses of drugs. Antibiotics, more antibiotics and then some more. That’s what they give the Pengas. Of course, this will end up elsewhere in the Vietnamese society. Unfortunately, as stated before, it ends up in other fish farms as well.
This is where the story takes a twisted turn. What is given to the fish in the farms are pellets, those pellets are made in Denmark, at least in this case. Hmm, what are the pellets made out of you ask? Fatty fish like eels, because they contain a lot of fat and protein. Remember where the toxins liked living? The correct answer is in the fat. The fattier the fish, the more pollutants it carries. 20 percent of those come from the most polluted seas in the world, the Baltic Sea. Obviously, this then ends up in the pellets the fish eats. One could say the whole food chain is contaminated from top to bottom.
The safety of entomophagy
Now, however, you might ask about the safety of entomophagy, the eating of insects. Am I right? Sure I Am. Well then, let me give you a soothing massage. Just as with everything, nothing is 100 percent. People in some countries harvest in the wild. Although I’m personally not against this practice, since it gives people in rural areas an income, it does carry some risks. This risk comes from the fact that it’s not a controlled environment. In turn, environmental toxins and pathogens could end up in your cricket, or another bug of choice.
Crickets don’t need to be harvested in the wild. There are plenty of cricket farms, at least in Thailand where you can find about 20 000 of them.
And there’s no need for contaminants, wouldn’t you agree? I think we can make due without them. As a matter of fact, testing has been done on insect farms in Europe and the US. This testing was done on samples from these insect farms. They checked for contaminants sometimes found in foods coming from animal sources.
They looked for:
- E. coli.
- Staphylococcus aureus.
Guess what, they were found free of contaminants.
If you want to know more about the safety of eating insects, in this case, crickets I highly suggest you read our article “Crickets- Are they Safe to Eat?“.
This article has been about whether or not insects are the food for the present or the future. I hope you understand my train of thought and that this article has been proof of concept. Once again, eating bugs is for sure the way of the future. There isn’t a doubt in my mind. And when you hear this:
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
- DDT and its metabolites (DDTs).
- Chlordane-related compounds (CHLs).
- Hexachlorocyclohexane isomers (HCHs).
- Hexachlorobenzene (HCB).
Remember, those long names are codewords for us mortals, not to understand. What they actually say is Danger, Danger.