There is a movie called “Snowpiercer” made in 2013 about survivors of the second ice age who live on a luxury train that runs continuously (24/7 365 days) orbiting the earth. If the train was to stop, everyone would freeze to death. Of course the inhabitants of this train are separated by status/caste much like most societies. The poor/lower caste of this society is located in the back of the train, the caboose; the upper-middle class in the mid-sections; the elite class close to the front; and the inventor who is the leader/government lives in the front of the train. To make a lengthy story short, the unfortunate people in the caboose (used as machines to make life comfortable for the upper caste/class), were starved to the point where they succumbed to eating each other…yes cannibalism! Since the privileged class needed the poor populous to be in ample supply, they came up with a source of food to feed them. This source of food was called “protein bars. The protein bars were made of cockroaches and it was effective in alleviating starvation and ending cannibalism. The people had no clue that the protein bars were made of cockroaches…I remember contemplating this and feeling sick to my stomach imagining what it would be if I had to eat cockroaches!
Now, here in this reality in the western part of the world, we are seeing trendy restaurant menus and supermarkets featuring edible insects. However, insects as a food source is not a modern thing. The term “entomophagy” (from the Greek words éntomon, “insect” and phagein, “to eat”) refers to the use of insects as food: human insectivore. The eggs, larvae, pupae and adults of insects were used in prehistoric times as food ingredients in humans, and this trend has continued into modern times. Man was omnivorous in early development and ate insects quite extensively. Before people acquired tools for hunting or farming, insect constituted a core component of the human diet. Moreover, people lived mainly in warm regions, where different kinds of insects were available throughout the year. Insects offered a welcome source of protein in the absence of meat from vertebrates. Currently, 80% of the world eats over 1,000 species of insects — from chapulines(grasshoppers) in Mexico to mopani worms in southern Africa to roasted leaf-cutter ants in Colombia. The popular insects for this current Western food trend are, crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms, beetles, ants, termites, and scorpions. By the way, in China cockroach farms are booming!
Studies show that edible insects are good for you and the environment. Insects significantly require less space and water; they produce a 100 times less greenhouse gases; require six times less feed than animals; they are low in calories and fat and high in protein, calcium and iron. Replacing meat with insects can also help to reduce food waste. However, we should be aware that eating some insects can cause allergic reactions for some people. For example, if one is allergic to shell fish, crickets and grasshoppers may cause the same allergic reaction like anaphylactic shock. In addition, the danger of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that could be present in wild insects that feed on grass and other plant life treated with these chemicals.
Although the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization recommend insects as a viable food source. They feel edible insects can help to feed the world growing population; predicted to grow up to 9 billion by 2038. However, I feel that eating insects is another food fad in the West (USA, Canada, UK). With global warming on the rise, there will be no “Snowpiercer” situation in the foreseeable future and many people will struggle with trading in their meat for bugs. In the meantime, I have tried some crickets and find them very tasty–a bit of a nutty taste and am told they are easily flavoured. I’ll keep you all posted if I try any other insects…maybe I’ll create a recipe.
(2) M. Sponheimer, D. de Ruiter, J. Lee-Thorp, A.SpäthSr/Ca and early hominin diets revisited: new data from modern and fossil tooth enamel
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(1) J. Evans, M.H. Alemu, R. Flore, M.B. Frøst, A.Halloran, A.B. Jensen, G. Maciel-Vergara, V.B.Meyer-Rochow, C. Münke-Svendsen, S.B.Olsen, C. Payne, N. Roos, P. Rozin, H.S.G. Tan, A. van Huis, P. Vantomme, J. Eilenberg‘Entomophagy’: an evolving terminology in need of review
J. Insects Food Feed, 1 (2015), pp. 293-