Eating Insects for a More Sustainable World | Livestock

When people think of insects, they think of pests and carriers of diseases that exist to only to be bothersome and must be eradicated on sight. But what if insects can be a beneficial factor in our everyday lives and the environment? What if insects are grown specifically an a reliable food source? You must think that’s crazy and creepy, but humans have been eating insects for thousands of years and still are enjoying them around the world.There are currently over 1,100 species of edible insects that are known, with 80% of the world’s nations eating insects. Evidences even suggest that entomophagy, or the human consummation of insects, was an important part of the diets of humans before the use of tools for hunting and farming. Insects were readily available, numerous, and – most importantly – stationary, like bee hives and ant colonies.The biggest benefit of eating insects is the reduced environmental impact of cultivation them compared to chicken and cattle. The cultivation of edible insects require significantly less resources – land, feed, and water – to produce comparable biomass of animal livestock. For example, the water required to raise 150g of grasshopper biomass is insignificant compared to 3,290 liters of water to raise the same biomass of cattle.In addition, insects generally have very efficient food conversion rates compared to common animal livestocks. When reared and fed with equal quality of food used for traditional livestock, crickets showed to have a conversion rate twice that of chicken and pigs, four times that of sheep, and six times that of cattle, even when losses due to trimmings are accounted for. On top of all that, insects reproduce and mature at much faster rate than animals. Many female insects can lay thousands of eggs in a 3-4 weeks time with many insect species maturing in weeks.According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, animal agriculture “emerges as one of the top two or three contributors” to environmental issues. Animal livestocks have significant impact on climate change, air and water pollution, land degradation, loss of freshwater, deforestation, and reduction of biodiversity due to land clearing. Animal livestocks and supporting feed crop agriculture use up more land than any other human activity or enterprise. In short, our current animal agricultural system is not sustainable as global demands continue to grow exponentially and environmental pressures are at a critical level.The biggest hurdle for many people in Western nations is overcoming their fear of the insects. Stray from the norm and be a bit adventurous, who knows, you might actually like them. They might be the food of the future. On a side note, I would start with grasshoppers as they are quite crispy, like eating chips.