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  • Earth's population is on track to hit almost 10 billion by 2050

  • and feeding everyone is going to present some pretty major challenges.

  • Could a vital pillar of a secure food future be something a little out of left field?

  • Could it even be living in said field?

  • Could it bebugs?

  • Okay, let's get the most obvious question out of the way first: Is this a weird idea?

  • Well, it depends on who you ask.

  • To the 2 billion people around the world who indulge in entomophagy,

  • that is they regularly include insects as part of their diet,

  • it probably doesn't seem that strange at all.

  • Actually if you love shellfish, then you're already most of the way to eating bugs.

  • I mean, they are all arthropods, after all.

  • The US FDA even had to warn people with seafood allergies

  • not to eat any of the billions of cicadas that emerged in 2021,

  • because they contain similar proteins that could trigger an allergic reaction.

  • People who are regular insectivores tend to live closer to the equator

  • where bugs are available as a food source year round.

  • People who hail from higher latitudes like Europe

  • don't have a tradition of eating insects,

  • probably because they're really only available in the summer when they're nutritionally redundant anyway.

  • But the squeamishness many people feel at the thought of eating crawly critters

  • is learned and not an innately human instinct.

  • In fact, our bodies produce an enzyme that can break down the hard chitin of their exoskeletons,

  • so clearly we adapted to eat them at some point in our history.

  • Insects could bring a lot of benefits to someone's diet today.

  • Crickets, for example, aren't just a good source of proteinthey're also high in iron and vitamin B-12.

  • Eating a complete organism also means getting all the nutrients of that organism,

  • as opposed to eating one specific part of an animal.

  • Plus it cuts down on food waste, since eating a crunchy critter whole

  • is easier than using every part of larger livestock.

  • The FAO estimates crickets require about 13 times less space than an equivalent amount of beef.

  • They actually seem to like being packed together in small spaces,

  • which might help ease a consumer's guilty conscience.

  • Insects could also be a solution to the issue of just how much land we use to produce meat.

  • Right now, 80% of farmland is used for raising and feeding livestock,

  • even though animals account for only 18% of our caloric intake.

  • The small space requirements could help curb the deforestation that comes with creating new farmland.

  • That in turn could be a huge help in the fight against climate change.

  • Crickets emit a thousand times less greenhouse gasses

  • than cows do to produce the same amount of protein.

  • They also need roughly thirteen times less water,

  • another huge plus for areas of the world where water is scarce.

  • And as a parting gift, insect excrement, known as frass, even has a use as fertilizer.

  • Now, all of that is well and good, but what about flavor? Do they taste good?

  • Turns out insects come in many flavors,

  • from the sakondry of Madagascar, also known as the bacon bug,

  • to North America's own cicada, which apparently tastes a bit like shrimp to some.

  • Makes sense, given the FDA's warning about seafood allergies.

  • Really the biggest reason not to eat bugs aside from anaphylaxis is...wellbecause you don't want to.

  • Presenting them in a way that's palatable is a major challenge to wider adoption.

  • What we need is the Timon and Pumba to our Simba

  • someone to show us that bugs can be slimy yet satisfying.

  • That or an introduction to six-legged cuisine that's more approachable than whole deep-fried crickets.

  • Grinding them into powder that can be mixed into bread dough

  • or sprinkled onto a familiar food for a protein boost is one solution.

  • Now, if non-bug-eaters never come around to the idea, the very least they can do is help destigmatize it.

  • Like I said, lots of people around the world already rely on insects for a vital part of their diet.

  • Unfortunately, contact with people who have negative attitudes toward entomophagy

  • has caused some cultures to lose their taste for grub.

  • As more and more humans share the globe, it's important that

  • none of them are discouraged from a perfectly good food source

  • in favor of another that's more taxing on the environment and harder for them to obtain.

  • If you don't have a seafood allergy and you want to know more about cicadas

  • before you dive into a bowlful of them, then check out my video on the latest big emergence here.

  • So, what do you think about six-legged snacks? Are you still grossed out?

  • Do you think you could come around?

  • Or maybe you eat them already?

  • Let us know in the comments, be sure to subscribe, and I'll see you next time on Seeker.

Earth's population is on track to hit almost 10 billion by 2050

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Why Insects May Just Be the Food of the Future

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    Summer posted on 2021/06/23
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