INSECT FARMING: A NEW SUPERFOOD EMERGES
Have you ever tried eating a fresh, juicy, and crunchy…insect? If the thought of it grosses you out, then you are not alone. Most people in the Western world think the same. After all, when we say insects, we think about those filthy pests that cause diseases, such as cockroaches, flies, and mosquitoes.
Americans, in particular, rely heavily on fish, chicken, fish and pork for their steady supply of protein. This has always been the accepted methods. But a population boom and resources become scarcer, we might have to look for something else to augment our decreasing food supply. Right now, insects are well-positioned to be the next type of food that might take the world by storm. And mind you, they are not just any kind of food, but one that is rich in protein, very sustainable, and does not need too many resources to maintain.
Things are not looking good in the near future
Scientists have so much to be worried about when it comes to food production. By the year 2050, the world population is estimated to be at about 9 billion people, with the way things are going right now. One of the problems we are facing now is the rising cost of animal protein. There is also the problem of food and feed security, as well as the increasing demand for animal protein. To add insult to injury, a lot of the lands formerly used for farming are being encroached by developers in the name of industrialization. Global climate change also affects food productivity. Food production systems need to adapt to it.
To summarize, producers of food will have to maximize their output while using fewer lands and maximizing water resources. Seems like a very bleak perspective.
Description of insects
Insects are a part of life. We simply cannot escape them. Most people think of insects as pests, and they are justified in thinking that. After all, insects such as mosquitoes, flies, and mosquitoes are some of the most dangerous creatures on earth because of their disease-transmitting capabilities. However, do you know that only a very small fraction of the entire insect population can be considered as pests? Most are what we can call beneficial insects.
Insects are creatures that have an exoskeleton that protects them from the environment; they have three pairs of jointed legs; compound eyes, antennae, and a three-part body (head, thorax, and abdomen). They are cold-blooded creatures and undergo metamorphosis to adapt to seasonal variations. They reproduce quickly and have very large populations. Oftentimes, the young do not need parental care: adult females simply lay their eggs near a food source and leave them on their own.
There are around 1 million identified species, but there are many more that are not yet identified.
What is Entomophagy?
Some say entomophagy is the solution to all these problems. The case is strong for this to become the alternative to conventional livestock and feed sources. Entomophagy is the consumption of insects by humans. It may be hard to believe, but insects and arachnids have been a food staple for humans for hundreds of years. It is not a new concept at all.
There is an estimate that there are around 2 billion people who eat insects around the world. Then there are more or less 1,900 species of insects that are used as food. The most commonly consumed insects globally are beetles, caterpillars, ants, grasshoppers, crickets, locusts. Others are bees, wasps, cicadas, leafhoppers, planthoppers, scale insects, true bugs, termites, flies, and other orders.
Because of the insects’ nutrition composition, easy accessibility, cheap and simple rearing techniques, and quick growth rates, entomophagy is highly encouraged not only by entomologists but by nutritionists as well.
Aside from directly eating them, insects also produce products that humans consume. Bees produce honey. Several types of insects produce silk.
Culture plays a huge role in whether you consume insects as food or not. Same is true with religious practices. Many regions in the world are already eating insects and have been doing this for hundreds of years. The poorest countries in the world regularly eat insects as part of their diet. In particular, these countries are in Africa, Asia, and the Neotropics. In Kenya, bread enriched with insects as ingredients is widely preferred over regular bread. Kenya has a high prevalence of malnutrition. Here in the United States, eating insects is still considered taboo. People look at entomophagy with disgust and consider this as unacceptable behaviour. Americans do cringe at the thought of eating their cockroaches, grasshoppers, and flies. This is the mental hurdle we will have to overcome, which will be helped by huge information dissemination. Currently, multiple efforts are being made to make eating insects more appealing. Whether they will be successful, we have yet to know. Entomophagy, despite it being practised for centuries, is only being introduced to the Western world just now, and hopes are that it would capture the public imagination in the near future.
Insects are highly nutritious. They would not be called as the new “superfood” for nothing. They are healthy, high in healthy fats, protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Edible insects have highly variable nutritional content because there are so many of them. It would depend on the insect’s diet, habitat in which it lives, and its metamorphic stage. To illustrate, mealworms have Omega-3 and six fatty acids content that is comparable with that of fish. Their protein, minerals, and fatty acids are the same as those of fish and meat.
Insects are usually eaten whole. They can also be processed in powder form. They are also turned into granular and paste form. To make them appealing, they can be turned into hamburger patties, used as ingredients for making bread, or used for recipes for pizza, pancakes, and soup.
Obviously, insects should be held to the same standards as any other food source when it comes to health and sanitation regulations. This is to ensure food safety. Many factors should be considered, such as toxicity, presence of inorganic materials, There are rare cases of allergic reactions after consuming insects.
Insect farming also opens up another opportunity for livelihood
There is no doubt that when entomophagy picks up in popularity, more and more people will also have a new source of livelihood. This is because of insect farming. Consumers will not have to forage for insects, and instead, purchase their steady supply of insects from markets. This opportunity is true not only in underdeveloped countries but in developed ones as well. According to the Food Agricultural Organization, some of the poorest members of society like the women and those without land who dwell in rural and urban areas are involved in gathering, cultivating, and processing, and selling of these insects. In turn, this helps them get food on their tables.
So, why should we eat insects?
Insects are healthful and nutritious. They are a great alternative to the usual pork, beef, and chicken. They are cheaper too. If you are looking for a rich source of protein, healthy fats, calcium, iron, and zinc, look no further.
Insects emit a considerably fewer greenhouse gasses than most of the abovementioned livestock. For example, methane is emitted only by termites, cockroaches, and a few other insect groups. Ammonia emissions associated with insect rearing are also far lower than those in livestock such as pigs. High levels of ammonia in the atmosphere can negatively affect poultry performance, the health of the birds, and its caretakers.
Rearing of insects also does not need much land, while being fed on organic waste streams. Insects are also well ordered in converting feeds into proteins; they need less feed than cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens.
And of course, insect harvesting does not need high technology machines or gadgets. It also requires low capital, while giving jobs to the poorest members of society who otherwise could not find work.
Undoubtedly, insects can provide a number of good things to the environment. Nature benefits from their presence. Getting rid of all insects would certainly cause disasters on catastrophic levels. However, we do understand that a few species are pests. Some are a mere nuisance, while some are dangerous. And since they produce rather quickly and in huge numbers, these few species still number to several millions of insects. Then they become such a huge problem.
If you have such unwanted insects in your house or lawn, be sure to contact the Go-Forth Pest Control, to kill bugs for good,
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