According to scientists, the world population in 2050 will exceed 9.8 billion and 11.2 billion in 2100. With roughly 83 million people being added to the world’s population every year, the upward trend in population size is expected to continue.
In 2030 the world will need at least 50% more food, 45% more energy, and 30% more water than it did in 2012, which leads us to a serious problem – world hunger. Here, the UN has come with interesting solutions that might save us.
In 2013, the UN published a recommendation to eat more … insects, as they could become the only salvation to fight world hunger. In any case, insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly. They have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint. Not to mention the long-known fact that insects are a very rich source of protein and minerals, but they contain much less harmful fats than conventional meat.
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Since that announcement, many of the world’s best scientific minds have been trying to find a way to help people overcome their disgust with these potentially edible beings.
In many countries, eating insects is normal. In fact, history has shown that insects were a popular source of food even back in the times of the Romans and Greeks. A recent study has shown that over two billion people mainly in Africa and Asia eat insects. For example, some caterpillars in southern Africa are seen as luxuries and command high prices. However, insect-eating thought may still seem shocking to many Westerners.
So the question is – can edible insects became part of our diet?
Aurore Danthez, communications manager at Jimini’s, is positive it is just a matter of time. “It is like sushi,” she says. “Twenty or thirty years ago people in Europe found the idea of eating raw fish strange, but now it is everywhere.”
But Jonas House, lecturer in the sociology of consumption at Wageningen University, who is researching the acceptance of insects as food, is more skeptical. He says most insects eaten by people at the moment are novelties and snacks. Moving beyond this may be hard.
“If an unusual ingredient is going to become popular it has to be part of a cuisine or cooking practice. It needs to be prominently part of that, rather than hidden,”
Insect burgers in Switzerland
Despite that Europe has started to slowly respond to the above-mentioned UN call. Switzerland was the first country where special law came in force. As part of the 2017 Foodstuffs Act, Switzerland has loosened its food safety laws to allow the sale of insects in grocery stores. Three types of insects are now available for human consumption: mealworms, crickets, and grasshoppers.
Swiss retailer Coop introduced people with new products the insect burgers and balls – produced by domestic company Essento, whose management has stated that such products are no different from conventional ones and are in any case more useful and environmentally friendly. The burgers feature a mix of mealworms, rice, vegetables like carrots and celery, and spices. The balls are made with mealworms, chickpeas, onions, garlic, and spices. It is reported that flour worms is 53% pure protein and have been used in food in Asia since immemorial time.
Start-ups from around the world offer insect-production
Taking the example of Switzerland start-ups from around the world has started to offer insect production for human consumption and restaurants.
Since the beginning of 2019, customers of the German supermarket chain Kaufland have had the choice between garlic and herb-flavored mealworms, or buffalo worms with hints of sour cream and onion. Bold Foods has started to produce burgers made with buffalo worms but Beneto Food – three different flavors of cricket pasta.
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The Popular Finnish company Fazer was the first in the world to introduction with cricket-based bread. The bread, made using flour ground from dried crickets as well as wheat flour and seeds, has more protein than normal wheat bread.
Each loaf contains about 70 crickets and costs €3.99 (£3.55), compared with €2-3 for a regular wheat loaf.
“It offers consumers a good protein source and also gives them an easy way to familiarise themselves with insect-based food,” said Juhani Sibakov, the head of innovation at the bakery firm Fazer.
Insects in ice-cream
The British media The Economist decided to take insect-food to next level. They hold a giveaway, where you can get free tube of ice-cream and book if you signed up for their subscription. They adverted ice-cream as sustainable and protein-rich but there was a catch. 10% of the total weight of the product was dried and crushed beetles, grasshoppers, and flour worms.
Most of the reviews said that the ice cream tasted even very good! However, there is a significant problem in all of this: the effects of insects on the human body have not yet been fully studied. Doctors have said that this can leave a bad impact even that insects have been used for food in prehistoric times. For Europeans who are absolutely not used to it, it may prove to be the most poisonous or cause of very dangerous diseases.
Scientists Think Cockroach Milk Could Be The Next Superfood
Among other things, so-called cockroach milk can become the super-food of the future. Although most cockroaches don’t actually produce milk, Diploptera punctate, which is the only known cockroach to give birth to live young, has been shown to pump out a type of ‘milk’ containing protein crystals to feed its babies. Similar to mammals.
Recently, an international team of researchers has completed a study that found that a single one of these protein crystals contains more than three times the amount of energy found in an equivalent amount of buffalo milk.
While cockroach milk may sound like a great alternative to traditional dairy milk, it is not yet a viable alternative. A great number of cockroaches would have to be harvested to obtain a very small glass of milk. It would take 1,000 dead cockroaches to make just 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of the milk. So an international team of scientists decided to sequence the genes responsible for producing the milk protein crystals to see if they could somehow replicate them in the lab. However, scientists say that it will be incomparably more difficult to persuade people to start drinking such milk on a regular basis.