Most Americans would rather squish a cricket than eat it, but we’re in the minority. Roasted grubs are a favorite in Australia, stir-fried dragonflies are a delicacy in Indonesia, and fried woodworms and grasshoppers can be purchased from Thai street vendors. Eating insects is a practice called entomophagy.
More than one-fourth of the world’s population eats insects. The United Nations estimates 2,100 species of insects and worms are being eaten in 113 countries.
Would you munch on meal worms or dine on dung beetles? Would you consider using cricket flour in your family’s favorite recipes? Think about the ways in which you could incorporate insects into your family’s diets. This Insect Coloring Sheet can be used with younger family members to get them thinking about how insect-based protein might fit into their lives.
October 16 is World Food Day, an occasion devoted to talking about food security. An estimated 815 million people suffered from chronic hunger in 2016, according to figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Hunger affects men and women, children and the elderly, those living in rural and urban areas in nearly every country in the world.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for ensuring that food gets to those who need it most. But a 2013 United Nations report suggests that insects may help ease this worldwide epidemic. “Insect farming is “one of the many ways to address food and feed security… Insects are everywhere, and they reproduce quickly, and they have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint,” says the report.
That’s right – INSECTS.
Entomophagy is the practice of eating insects. More than one-fourth of the world’s population eats insects, from beetles to meal worms to dragonflies. One important reason for this culinary trend is that insects are packed with nutrients. Crickets, for example, contain approximately 21 grams of protein per 100 grams of cricket, while ground beef contains about 26 grams per 100 grams of meat. Insects contain as much iron as beef, and are also a good source of calcium, vitamin B12, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Will munching on insects and insect-fortified food products end hunger? It’s doubtful. But if it can get us even a little closer to feeding the world’s population, why wouldn’t we try?
I was in a busy market in Hanoi, Vietnam, when I first munched on insects. My daughter and I were embarking on a two-week trip through the region and I had promised myself I would be open to new experiences along the way. Biting into a fried grasshopper the size of your thumb was definitely a new experience for me. The taste was not memorable but the crunch? Years later, I still remember chewing and chewing, almost as if I was eating shrimp shells.
I had previously sampled chocolate-covered ants. At first, I put this insect-eating experience in the same category: It was a novelty, the sort of thing you would try once so you could brag to your friends about it.
Before long, though, I began to gain a better understanding of insects as food. I learned there are many places in the world, where people eat insects as a regular part of their diets. I learned how nutritious insects are and how much less land they take to raise than cattle or hogs. I even learned there’s a word for the practice of eating insects: Entomophagy.
Biting into those crispy grasshoppers changed my thinking. I’m hoping my Work in Progress might also change yours.