Although many cultures have had insects as part of their daily diet for thousands of years, the consumption of edible insects has recently surged in the Western world. This novel food has become so popular that there is even a World Edible Insect Day on 23 October. For those of us who haven’t grown up eating mopani worms, you might be grossed out by the idea and think that eating insects belongs in a Fear Factor show, but in fact The UN estimates that there are at least 1900 species of edible insects on earth.
Why has eating insects become one of the latest food trends? There are two main reasons: their ecological footprint and their nutritional value. Many people agree that they are a sustainable alternative to meat. We need more food to feed the world’s ever-growing population, but we are literally running out of space. Insects require far less space, water and food compared to livestock. This makes producing food from insects more cost effective than producing meat. Most species have a very rich nutritional profile – for example crickets are rich in protein, mopani worms are very high in iron, and ants are high in calcium.
There are many organizations and start-ups busy with research and development of edible insect products, and almost every category of food or beverage has been explored. It seems that most people prefer to eat insects disguised in a product rather than eat them whole. Some interesting products include Beetles Beer from Belgium and burger patties from Bugfoundation in Germany made from buffalo worms. South Africa isn’t far behind the rest of the world. Gourmet Grubb makes an insect ice cream and has recently opened a pop up restaurant in Cape Town, The Insect Experience. Other countries where exciting new insect food products are emerging include the Netherlands, USA, and Canada.
What is your opinion on insects as food? Should we start including insects in DayToDay’s meal boxes?