OK, I admit it; when I was growing up I was the tomboy who would chase the other girls around the playground. I would hold a live grasshopper between my fingers – its legs and mandibles reaching and grasping, the girls screaming.
I loved it; mainly because I could not figure out why they were so horrified. After all, it was only a measly ole' grasshopper! Then, I will never forget the day when "Annie" took our double-dog-dare and chewed up a grasshopper and swallowed it! Totally gross!
Apparently, Annie was ahead of her time because that is exactly what a new report conducted by the United Nations is suggesting. According to Russell McLendon of Mother Nature Network, the "…report suggests a more avant-garde approach to feed the world: less beef, more beetles." The report was produced by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and touts insects as being high in protein, fat and mineral contents. Currently, nearly 1 billion of the Earth's 7 billion human population are already chronically hungry; alternative food sources are the only way to try to meet the needs of the predicted two billion people that will join the Earth's population by 2050.
"Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly," the report says, "and they have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint."
Eating bugs in nothing new. People have been eating bugs since the dawn of time. (I do find it important to note here, that all bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs.) Even the FAO acknowledges that people already eat more than 1,900 different insect species worldwide. The most commonly eaten insects are beetles (31 percent) caterpillars (18 percent) bees, wasps and ants (14 percent) and grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (13 percent). According to the FAO, insects are often a better source of protein and nutrients than a comparable portion of hamburger. "Beef has an iron content of 6mg per 100g of dry weight, for example, while locusts offer between 8 and 20mg per 100g of dry weight.
The U.N. knows insects may be a hard sell in Western nations.
"We are not saying that people should be eating bugs," says Eva Muller, director of FAO's Forest Economic Policy and Products Division, in a statement on how forests can fight hunger. "We are saying that insects are just one resource provided by forests, and insects are pretty much untapped for their potential for food, and especially for feed."
The FAO is alluding to the idea of people eating bugs, however, not everyone all at once. To make the thought of eating bugs sound appealing, it may take unique marketing and promotional schemes. "Locusts in Australia, for instance, sound a little more appetizing when they're called "sky prawns."
So, how about it? Now knowing that eating bugs is even more nutritious than beef and better for the environment, would you try even one? How about if I double-dog-dare you!
Page 2 of 2 - Lynn Youngblood is a Kansas City-based naturalist who writes for Gatehouse Media.