Will an insect-burger actually be a thing?
– By Michiel Vriens If I were to tell you that eating insects is a good idea, I’m sure that the majority of you would scoff and turn your heads: ‘eating insects? That sounds crazy!’ Well guess what, I actually think it sounds like a pretty good idea. We just have to overcome our irrational fear of them and to do that we should really look at the stigma that surrounds insects. After all, there are many more insects than humans on this planet. That’s a fact you’ll just have to get used to. The stigma that surrounds insects can be summarised in one word. Disgust. Let’s admit that few of us see an insect and think ‘wow, that’s so cute!’ That would be a common reaction to a dog perhaps, but definitely not to a cockroach. Like many others, I have a strange phobia for cockroaches, I used to freeze when I saw one. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that most of our reactions to insects are somewhat similar to my reaction to a cockroach. It’s hard to quantify our disgust of insects, but there are a number of factors at play that have determined our disgust for insects. Their portrayal in movies, amongst other things has probably played a pretty big part in that. As a result, we’ve never really considered them to be food, but to say that no one has or ever will eat insects is just wrong, plain and simple. Not all insects are cockroaches and I think that we can overcome this fear we hold onto dearly. If you walk through a local market in Bangkok, you will probably see roasted scorpions on a spit ready to be munched away at. Aboriginals in Australia have been eating numerous species of insects for centuries at least. In fact, at this moment in time 80% of countries and about two out of every seven people regularly eat insects. That’s quite a lot. It’s generally the problems that we see with our meat industry — particularly with regards to livestock — that have made insects seem particularly attractive as a replacement. Let’s take a quick peek at the environmental impact that the meat industry has currently. Agriculture uses 30% of the land on planet Earth, of which 70% is dedicated to the meat industry. Again, this is mostly livestock we’re speaking of. That’s a lot of land, which has knock on effects on deforestation and soil erosion. The meat industry also uses incredible amounts of water. Additionally, livestock produce methane, and lots of it. An insect industry would use a fraction of the land, because insects can be grown on shelves in factories and don’t need extended fields to roam. It is also estimated that they will emit 90% less methane gas. That’s a massive difference and one worth noting. I will admit that environmental reasons aren’t always the most persuasive to change one’s diet, so here’s another. Insects are actually good for you. There, the truth is out. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has, for a lack of a better word, embraced insects as a viable substitute for other meats. In fact, insects are perhaps the best source of protein you’ll ever eat. So if you’re looking to make some serious gains in 2017, why don’t you try eating some insect burgers instead of downing those protein shakes. A cricket can be 80% protein. This is because many insects are the most efficient ‘upcyclers’ we know of. This refers to their ability to transform organic waste into protein at levels that a cow couldn’t even dream of. Many people don’t eat meat because of valid ethical considerations, mostly about the environment and animal cruelty. However, these don’t apply to insects. Hopefully, I’ve already convinced you that an insect industry would only produce a fraction of the emissions the meat industry currently does. On grounds of animal cruelty, insects don’t feel pain in the way mammals do. Certain insects can actually flood their brain with adrenaline in situations where they think they will die and thus kill themselves before they feel any real pain. Thankfully, many haven’t been blind to the enormous potential insects have in changing our diets in the future and have endeavoured to start producing them on a large scale. One of these endeavours can be found close to home. Well, close is a relative term, but the company Protix has an insect factory in Maastricht and they are in many ways a market leader in Europe, but also in the world. Will we eating insects instead of other meats soon? Time will tell, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we see insects appearing on our plates more frequently in the not too distant future.