Breaking the bug barrier
In 2013 the UN released a document urging people to start eating insects. That’s right, insects. The crickets you hear at night or the beetles in your garden. The UN identified that adding even a small amount of insects into our everyday diets could help prevent world hunger. Almost 4 years later and people are starting to take their advice.
I’m here to spread the bug love to you curious readers, I’m here to break the boycott and lack of acceptance with a quick guide on everything you need to know about eating insects. You’ll also find a video of my very own Bush Tucker Challenge. As it was the first time I ever (knowingly) tried insects, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous!
The bottom line is that more people are experimenting with eating insects. As more and more of us do, we would be healthier, the planet would be healthier, and there would be more food to go around to everyone. But we have to get over the “ick” factor.
Retailers like Musclefood and Crunchy Critters sell products like ”buffalo worm burgers” and “edible insects” online, could these seemingly novelty foods become a staple part of western diets? Meanwhile, Bear Grylls, Bushtucker trials, and TV shows like I’m a Celebrity reinforce the “ick” factor of insects.
The good news is that, like an ant can carry 5,000 times its own weight, every person who tries entomophagy (the fancy word for eating insects) helps overcome the taboo. So read on, and you can join the movement.
Some of what you’ll learn today:
- How I coped with my very own Bush Tucker Bug Challenge (Don’t miss this video)
- Which insects are packed with the most nutrients
- How eating insects could save the Amazon
- Where you could get started
Man vs. (a plateful of) Bugs
Remember ten years ago, when you first discovered sushi, how your friends were disgusted that you were eating “raw fish”? Now look, sushi restaurants are everywhere. Sushi broke the taboo.
Insects can too. At some point, all of our everyday delicacies were considered strange. The first rice farmer had to convince his hunting and gathering friends to try his crop. How did it happen? Enough people had an open mind, tried something new, and told their friends about it.
Eating a bug was never something I imagined doing. So, spending a Saturday afternoon eating a whole plate full of them in a race against my partner made for a pretty unusual weekend. I’m actually terrified of bugs. The thought of their creepy little legs and their beady little eyes is enough to give me shivers, yet I embarked on this task with enthusiasm and determination.
That was until the box of bugs came through the letterbox and it all became real. What had I set myself up for? I know it’s healthy, I know it’s good for the environment – but seriously, they’re frikking bugs! ALSO, they sent way more than expected. I thought I was just getting some mealworms and crickets, but I was staring down ants and chapulinas too.
I decided that eating whole insects alongside a buffalo worm burger and some salad would be the best way to enjoy them as a meal. Seeing them, lying on my salad, almost like a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds or almond flakes, was surprisingly kind of appetising.
And do you know what?
They didn’t even taste that bad. I’m sure reading this, you imagine insects would be a big gooey, squelchy mess or an exercise in picking their legs out of your teeth. They’re not. They’re dry and taste almost like a mix between popcorn and nuts. In fact, now that I’m past the “ick”, I think I could sit down and eat these with a film – not even kidding.
I will definitely be buying the burgers again. They were really tasty and almost like a standard vegetarian burger. Same goes for the protein bars, they just tasted like a normal naked bar, with no odd flavours or crunches. To be honest, those two were the easiest to eat.
I didn’t feel as mentally challenged as I did with actual whole bugs. And that’s just it, a mental challenge. The ick is in your head.
OK, you ate bugs, but why would I?
Well, they are very good for you and very good for the environment.
Insects are highly nutritious. Have you ever heard someone spot a bug or fly on some salad and say “oh well, extra protein”. They weren’t joking. Gram for gram many insects contain more protein than beef and chicken. In fact 1kg of termites contains around 350g of protein, whereas the same kg of beef has only 320g, tasty, right?
The food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has recommended Entomophagy (the fancy word for eating insects) as an excellent way to meet the nutrient needs of humans. The UN don’t go about recommending any kind of food, especially not something as unusual as insects unless there’s some real substance behind their claims.
Alongside their high protein content crickets and grasshoppers are also low in saturated fats and contain high amounts of iron (crickets have 3 times the amount of iron as beef), making them a great heart healthy, post-workout snack.
Beetles are similarly high in protein and also contain zinc and calcium. So not only are insects a great way to hit your macronutrient goals, but they will help you get enough vitamins and minerals to hit your micronutrients too.
The 2 billion people worldwide eating insects are not just eating bugs because there’s nothing else to eat. Insects are good for you.
How are they good for the environment?
In the West, where we have so much choice about what we eat, we should really consider the effects of that choice. Are we supporting the deforestation of the Amazon or the overfishing of the sea? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t eat meat or fish. I’m saying you have to be smart.
Eating insects is a smart thing to do for the environment.
Cattle typically require around eight pounds of feed to produce one pound of meat. In the grand scale of things that’s a whole lot of feed. With insects there’s a 2:1 ratio as opposed to the 8:1. That means only two pounds of feed is required to produce one pound of edible meat. The farmland that produces that excess feed could be repurposed to produce food for humans, biofuel for cars, or returned to nature. The world can’t keep up with making enough meat for the amount of people who eat it. In the 10 years between 1996 and 2006, an area the size of Portugal was carved out of the Amazon for cattle ranching.
Eating insects means less wastage.
With conventional meat you have to dispose of bones, fat, brains and all of that “ick” but with insects it’s all for the taking. 80% of a cricket is edible compared to just 40% of a cow. Although the thought of bug brains might not be that appealing, it helps remembering how small they are.
Another issue with the meat industry is the rise in greenhouse gasses caused by methane produced by cows. One cow releases between 70 and 120 kg of methane a a year. Farming of insects requires much less livestock thus in turn reduces the amount of greenhouse gasses created.
Lastly, unlike animal farming, insects are bred in a cruelty-free manner. Insects are accustomed to living in close quarters with one another, unlike the cows, chickens, pigs and other farm animals that live out their lives in factory farms.
So you can see, insect protein is a sustainable and humane nutrition source.
However, eating insects in the West is looked upon with some disgust. Thankfully, there are now many companies who are trying to “creep” more products like insect protein powders and cricket flowers into the UK food market.
I think I’m ready, tell me what I need to know.
Believe it or not, there are around 1,900 species of insects that are edible for human consumption. Of these:
- 31% are types of beetles
- 14% are types of bees, wasps, and ants
- 18% are types of caterpillar
- 13% are types of grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets
- 10% are types of cicadas, leafhoppers, planthoppers, scale insects and true bugs
- 3% are types of dragonflies
- 3% are types of termites
- The final 5% are other orders of insects
It’s no surprise the UN is actively trying to encourage us to eat more insects. There’s so much to go round. Statistically there are forty tons of insects to every human. If you think you eat a lot now, try consuming that.
What Insect Has The Most Protein?
The best insect for protein is – Crickets.
100g of cricket flour contains around 58g of protein. That’s 31grams more than chicken.
Close second is the Mealworm with 55g of protein per 100g, 3.5g of carbs and just 19 grams of fat. According to Myfitnesspal they also contain 8.7 grams of dietary fibre.
So is cricket flour the new high-protein powder?
Breaking the taboo of Entomophagy are a few companies who have developed protein bars and snack bars using cricket powder. Cricket flour is readily available from online stores and is the first step for many people considering adding bugs to their everyday diet.
When 100 grams of chicken contains around half the protein of some edible insects, why aren’t more bodybuilders eating them? Everyone knows more protein = more gains. The “ick” factor so powerful that even big strong muscle building guys can’t handle the thought of cricket crunching!
Where can I buy edible insects?
If you’ve been travelling Southeast Asia, South America or parts Africa then you’re probably already aware that eating insects is nothing new. Many people living in these countries eat insects as a part of everyday life.
For them, eating insects isn’t strange, disgusting or even exotic. It’s normal. The street markets of Thailand are filled with stalls selling flavoured, roasted crickets and grasshoppers. If we could get over the “ick” factor a whole new culinary world would open up to us.
Visiting countries like Thailand, Ghana and Mexico isn’t the most convenient way to try edible insects, though it’s a great excuse for a trip. Luckily you can try them from the comfort of your living room or from a fancy restaurant, right here in the UK.
If you fancy trying insects for the first time, somewhere a little more fancy then there’s also a range of restaurants in the UK embracing the movement.
- Holcroft’s grub kitchen in Pembrokeshire The first UK restaurant to serve bugs,
- Archipelago restaurant in London who are providing diners with “Bushman’s Cavi-Err” caramelised mealworms bilinis, coconut cream and vodka jelly.
- Patisserie maxime in Edinburgh have also started adding an extra “creepy” ingredient to their cakes and baked goods.
As entomophagy becomes increasingly popular, you can guarantee this list will be much bigger in the future.
Want to get started today?
If you’re ready to embrace the “bug life” then this is where to begin. The products used in our video are some of the best “beginner” products for budding Bear Grylls wanna be’s.
Protein Bars – Crobar snack bars are developed by GATHR foods run by Christine Spliid from Denmark. Her passion for healthy food and travelling inspired the creation of these sustainable and unique protein bars – great for the beginner entomophagist
Bug Burgers – Musclefood are known for their meat, namely their chicken and exotic meat products. Whilst Kangaroo and Crocodile steaks are some unusual meats, they’re not quite as unusual as their buffalo worm bug burgers. To make it even “creepier” they’re green, but don’t worry, this is more to do with the peas than the bugs. To try these today, don’t forget to use our exclusive Musclefood discount code and you can get £5 off your order.
Whole Edible Insects – Crunchy Critters were the first name that came to mind when I was searching for whole edible insects. They sell absolutely everything from crickets straight through to tarantulas and scorpions. They are the UK’s premier supplier of edible insects and many restaurants providing insects will be straight from these guys. So if you’re hosting your own bush tucker trial or you’re ready to take that next leap into entomophagy then this is the company to help you.