Much of the world's population eats insects as a regular part of their diet. Insects are rich in protein and hardly have any fat. A new global movement is encouraging people to cultivate, harvest, cook and eat insects, partly as a way to save the world. Edible-insect advocates have set up food carts in San Francisco, conferences in Rome and food fairs in Bozeman, Montana to promote the idea that insects can help solve food and protein shortages and reduce the huge, expensive efforts to grow beef and pork. Insects, they point out, are much easier to grow than large animals. Of the 1.1 million species of insects scientists have identified and named, 1,700 are edible.
Insects are more efficient and do not waste much water, their exoskeleton is full of holes used for breathing and can be shut to prevent water loss. We mammals have to sweat to cool our bodies and lose a lot of water that way.
They are cold-blooded creatures, which makes them much more efficient in converting energy to protein.
But the big advantage of eating insects is that they are generally healthier than meat. A six-ounce serving of crickets has 60 percent less saturated fat and twice as much vitamin B-12 than the same amount of ground beef.
Insects also do not spread disease to humans the way cows or pigs can.
California Academy of Sciences entomologist Brian Fisher put it this way: "...Insects are less dangerous and less of a problem for humans in terms of disease. We do have concerns about disease jumping from animals like pigs and cows to humans. But there are no worries about a disease jumping from an insect to humans. The more evolutionary distant we are from our food source, the less danger there is..."
The edible-insect movement in the U.S. appears to be gathering converts. At Montana State University in Bozeman, entomologist Florence Dunkel edits The Food Insects Newsletter (www.foodinsectsnewsletter.org) and makes frequent appearances promoting the idea of eating bugs. University of California entomologist Lynn Kimsey also promotes edible insects. And others in the U.S. and other developed countries — especially the Netherlands — are pushing hard.