Give bugs a chance

While the thought of eating insects puts some of us off eating entirely, creepy-crawlies may be an extremely valuable food source in the near future.

Large-scale factory farming is inhumane and cruel, and raising livestock creates an alarming amount of greenhouse gas. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation states that 97 per cent of the world’s soy crops are fed to livestock, and growing this takes up 26 per cent of the Earth’s ice-free land, releasing 18 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of more than seven gigatonnes of CO2 per year.

Bugs may be the answer. Sustainably minded chefs such as Kylie Kwong support the growing movement to increase our bug intake, which is common in many cuisines. Insects are arthropods, like crustaceans, so eating insects should be no different to eating prawns or crayfish – though people with shellfish allergies should take care.

Skye in production kitchen

Insects take up very little space, compared to traditional livestock, and can be raised stacked on top of each other in using specialised kits. “This means you can breed certain edible species on your own,” says Skye Blackburn, an entomologist who supplies bugs for Kwong’s Sydney restaurant, through an insect farm that she has run in Western Sydney since 2009.

Photo: Edible Bug Shop
Photo: Edible Bug Shop

“Ten kilograms of grain can produce either a kilogram of beef, or nine kilograms of crickets!” Blackburn says.

Roasted Silkworm Pupae. Photo: Edible Bug Shop
Roasted Silkworm Pupae. Photo: Edible Bug Shop

“By eating edible insects, you are supporting a sustainable form of protein that will most likely have a regular place on our dinner plates in the future. They can help increase the amount of protein in a range of sweet and savoury dishes.”

“In the Western world, we haven’t grown up eating bugs. In Thailand, school children are given insects to eat as part of their school lunch, so it’s completely normal.”

The insect products that Blackburn sells through her online shop, The Edible Bug Shop, have many nutritional benefits.

Live mealworms in Skye's hand. Photo: Edible Bug Shop
Live mealworms in Skye’s hand. Photo: Edible Bug Shop

“The crickets are high in protein and calcium, and low in fat. We dry roast them, so no oils or flavourings are added. The mealworms are approx 33 per cent protein, low in fat and are high in essential amino acids.”

Be warned, though – while “there are more than 1,500 recorded types of edible insects, some are not edible. These include insects that are bright in colour, as well as insects that contain spikes or hairs. They can contain toxins or are unpalatable.”

Edible Black Ants. Photo: Edible Bug Shop
Edible Black Ants. Photo: Edible Bug Shop

Taste plays an important role in Blackburn’s business. “Insects are actually very tasty,” says Blackburn. The range developed in her test kitchen includes roasted crickets and mealworms, dehydrated ants, and insect lollipops and chocolate confections. There are even ants that taste like lemongrass and ginger.

Bug-O-Nut Rough. Photo: Edible Bug Shop
Bug-O-Nut Rough. Photo: Edible Bug Shop

Blackburn visits schools to teach children about insects’ role in our ecosystems as part of the Butterfly Skye’s Butterfly Release and Insect Education Program. “By educating the general public, I really believe that we can help bring edible insects to tables around the world in a way that is fun, exciting and tasty.”

DSC02821_FotorHow to eat an insect_Brendon The Smiling Chef_7

Writer’s note: This post first appeared as a feature at Green Lifestyle Magazine on Wednesday 4 June, 2014. Check out my taste test of some of ready-to-eat packaged edible insects by clicking through to the feature, How to eat an insect.

 

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. I know this is the future but I would start with the choc covered critters 🙂

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    1. It was indeed very strange to see insects on a plate. Definitely try them out if you get a chance. With all the chocolate you honestly don’t know there are insects in there. (This may be a little mean but…) I told my sister apieceofshortcake there were insects in the ‘Bug O’Nut Rough, but I didn’t say which ones. She gave it a shot and was quite happy, up until I let her know what they were.

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      1. What a great Blog your sister has! Oh my I can imagine the reaction 🙂 But maybe that’s the way to do it? That way you might like it without being prejudged. I will have a lookout for the non- recognizable kind for now 🙂

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        1. Thanks very much. I’ll let her know that you liked it. Good luck. Let me know how you go 🙂

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