If you are addicted to steak and processed meats in the XXI century, you probably have been told that red meat is not as healthy as other protein-rich food items would be. If that is not the case and you are indeed a vegetarian, I bet some “experts” in nutrition have tried to convince you that you may not be obtaining enough protein.
Regardless of what may or may not be healthier, it is a fact that meat production is not sustainable. It requires several resources and contributes heavily to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, soil degradation, water stress, and coastal “dead” zones.
Stick to a vegan or vegetarian diet is an option that may be healthier and that ensures a reduction of the individual’s carbon footprint. However, becoming vegetarian is not the only option. Sooner or later, laboratory-grown meat and dairy products may be finally commercialised, meaning that animal products will be produced in-vitro within the laboratories. Although this may seem futuristic, it is as real as Elon Musk’s plan to die on Mars. However, we still need to enhance our technologies to make it a reality.
Meanwhile, though, there is an exciting and curious edible alternative that is not as familiar as a steak might be. Insects!
Insects are already sold in supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and are indeed consumed by 2 billion people globally. Although this habit is regarded negatively or as revolting in the Western world, there are indeed 113 countries that include them in their diets. Proof of this general repudiation is that there have been more advances on ways to kill insects (e.g. insecticides) rather than on taking advantage of the possibilities they offer. There are even famous books that tell the misfortune of individuals inexplicably transformed into giant insects (e.g. “The Metamorphosis“). What would people have thought if the characters of these stories metamorphosed into birds or horses? Surely it is not seen as bad as becoming suddenly into an insect.
Insect nutritional content obviously varies among species, but generally, their composition of unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (healthy fats) is comparable with that of fish and higher than in cattle and pigs. Protein, vitamin and mineral content are also similar to that in fish and meat. Furthermore, some insect species contain amino acids (the structural units of proteins) such as lysine that are missing in some cereals or vegetables. This is of particular interest to people having grains or cassava as key staples.
Owing to the tremendous potential edible insects represent, enhancement of the production methods is an intriguing target as insect production and consumption have always occurred in non-developed countries, thus involving simple farming and processing systems.
Insects as food and feed: from production to consumption is a book covering the production, processing and consumption of edible insects in twenty-two chapters with contributions of various authors and edited by renowned scientists in the edible insect world. The authors discuss important issues relative to insect production such as tropical production systems, production technology and management, industrial production systems, nutritional quality and processing, regulation, ethics and promotion, and the insect sector’s future prospects.
Facts are presented in high-quality tables, figures and photos that support the discussions. In addition, the high-resolution images add a much-needed effect. The book opens with a preface that outlines edible insects’ history, potential, and the challenge of mass-producing them at low costs.
It is a book that can attract students, workers of the food sector, or even insect producers. I did even used it as a theoretical guide for breeding insects for my Bachelor’s dissertation! So either if you are curious about this emerging sector, or you just want to breed some insects in your backyard, this book is a must!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Arnold Van Huis is a Professor of Tropical Entomology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands that researches and advocates the consumption of insects. Check the following link to watch a fascinating TEDx Talk given by Professor Van Huis about eating insects. Jeffery K. Tomberlin, on the other hand, is an associate Professor & AgriLife Research Fellow and Director of the Forensic & Investigative Sciences Program at Texas A&M University.