Eating insects

Most people in Europe and America may feel reluctant to eat cricket and grasshoppers, but they are popular snack foods in parts of Africa and Asia. Not only are they rich in nutrients, they are also less harmful to the climate.

The air in my family’s home in Uganda was filled with a distinctive aroma, similar to the aroma of grilled beef. It was December 2000 and my sister Maggie was frying grasshoppers. The more she stirs green crunchy grasshopper-like insects, the stronger and richer her flavor becomes. As they became sizzling and steamed from the pot, my taste tingled-I couldn’t wait to eat this delicious treat.

This was not my first experience with locusts-I grew up regularly and ate locusts. Locust is a nutritious delicacy and a popular snack in Uganda. On this occasion, I harvested locusts myself for the first time in 2000. These insects breed around Lake Victoria in East Africa, flock at night, and land on dew condensation near our family homes by dawn. At that time, I and my teenagers spent a day picking up insects from the grass on the hills above my house in Hoima, western Uganda. I was proud when I brought back a large bag full of these insects to the pot.

The season changes from rainy November to dry January, making it the perfect time to harvest insects. I liked the taste of Christmas, so I often ate locusts instead of beef. About 22 years later, in June of this year, I felt nostalgic for the taste of that house, so I decided to reproduce my favorite grasshopper snack. This gave me an experimental idea-can I replace all the meat in my diet for these crunchy creatures? I’ve heard about the sustainability benefits of eating insects and were curious about how the introduction of grasshoppers as a major protein source could reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

I currently live in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. This dense city does not have grasslands for locusts to land. During the two locust seasons of Uganda (May-June and December-January), when insects swarm in African grasslands and open bushes, 4,444 inhabitants of Kampala produce these delicious beetles. We rely on the seller to deliver. Vendors use bright lamps to seduce and catch locusts. They burn fresh grass, use smoke to dizzy insects, fly to iron plates and fall into empty drums.

Locust trade is a booming business. Each season, the city of Kampala is flooded with vendors who can earn about 760,000 Ugandan shillings (USh) or about $ 200 / £ 162 per season. I pay Ush 20,000 ($ 5.26 / £ 4.40) for a plastic cup full of live grasshoppers with stripped wings and legs.

When you get home, wash the insects in a bowl, put them in a dry pan, cover and leave on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the insects from burning. After about an hour, the locusts release fat, which causes them to burn and begin to change color from green to yellow. Now you can fry without cooking oil. At this point, the flavor of the meat begins to appear and becomes even more pronounced by stirring until it turns golden about every 5 minutes. Then add the onions, peppers and salt. The insects continue to fry until the fat melts, and when I stir, the insects start to hear crisp when they hit the pan. After another 30 minutes, the locusts develop a crisp, crisp consistency and are ready to eat. The beauty of locusts is that they can be eaten with a wide variety of foods, much like eating chicken wings with french fries.

During the four days of the experiment, I ate locusts with cassava, potato, rice, and cowpea stew. A cup of locust is slightly more expensive than a kilogram of beef and costs about US $ 13,000 (£ 2.86 / $ 3.42). But I cooked three meals with just one locust. On the second day there are locusts and potatoes, usually eaten with meat or bean stew. On the 3rd and 4th day, we combined the locusts with rice and cowpea stew. By using beef as the primary source of protein instead of grasshoppers, we should have been able to reduce our dietary carbon emissions by a factor of 10.

Locusts are like popcorn to me. It’s a snack that you won’t want to stop eating and never get tired of. Personally, eating beef often makes the taste dull, but eating it for four days in a row did not reduce the appetite of locusts. But the only challenge was that by the third day my jaw started to get a little hurt by biting crunchy insects all week long. Another drawback was that the salty locusts made me incredibly thirsty. It took longer than expected to prepare the locusts, so I knew how much effort and time my sisters were spending. However, cooking is not a complex and demanding task. I often read books while waiting for food. I fried it with onions and chili peppers, but the grasshoppers are delicious on their own, so I don’t need to add any ingredients.

Peter Alexander, a senior researcher at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom on global food security, said that replacing locusts with beef as a major protein source could reduce dietary carbon emissions by a factor of 10. I’m estimating. “What we eat is very important to the emissions associated with our diet,” he says. According to a study by Alexander et al., Replacing half of the meat eaten around the world with mealworms and crickets cuts farmland use by a third, frees 1.68 billion hectares with the United Kingdom. It is about 70 times as large as the world.

Edinburgh reduction researchers at the University of Edinburgh. Insects also have high food utilization. For example, crickets require one-sixth of cows, one-quarter of sheep, and one-half of pigs and chickens to produce the same amount of protein. Cultivation of insects produces significantly less greenhouse gases than animals. This is especially true when considering the transportation of livestock and feed, which account for 18% of these emissions. For example, according to a study by researchers at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, crickets produce up to 80% less methane than cattle and 8-12 times less ammonia than pigs. Methane is a powerful gas that has 84 times the global warming impact of CO2 in 20 years, and ammonia pollution is associated with soil acidification, groundwater pollution, and ecosystem damage.

Insects can also eat organic waste. This helps reduce the emissions generated when this waste rots, and generally also reduces the overall emissions per kg of food. “I agree that the release intensity of many protein-rich insects is many times lower than that of all animal foods,” specializes in the impact of global warming on agriculture and food supply at the University of Illinois at Urbana. Researcher Atul Jain said. American champagne. “But it’s not produced on an industrial scale like beef and other foods. Therefore, it is not possible to make a fair comparison of greenhouse gas emissions for any diet, whether plant-based or animal-based. “

Insects are compared to animals. You can build an insect farm in the basement and in your house, and you can have a million insects in a few days,” said edible insects to some Americans. Bill Broadbent, president of Entomophagy, a US company whose mission is to do so, said. Everyday life to make nutrition. Insects may not completely replace meat, but as the world’s population continues to grow, insects are an important source of alternative proteins in a world that is likely to face food shortages in the coming years.

For example, for every kilogram of high-quality animal protein produced, livestock are given about 6 kg of vegetable protein. Rising agricultural costs such as fertilizers and animal feeds are estimated to raise beef, pork and chicken prices by more than 30% by 2050. In addition, climate change and reduced agricultural productivity could increase these prices by an additional 18% to 21%, which is believed to increase feed costs and increase the need for alternative protein sources.

Increasing demand for edible insects In countries in Africa, South America and Asia, about 2,000 species of insects are eaten worldwide. Thailand has a particularly prosperous insect industry, with 20,000 farms producing 7,500 tonnes of beetles annually. However, many people in Europe and America are still reluctant to eat insects, despite their excellent taste and environmental and nutritional benefits, and miss the opportunity to reduce their dietary carbon dioxide emissions. increase.

Living in the UK between 2019 and 2021, I had a hard time buying edible grasshoppers. In December 2021, I was hungry for locusts when I saw this delicious treat image shared by an Ugandan friend celebrating the beginning of the locust season throughout the social media feed. When I searched for Ugandan delicacies, I went east and west in London and Leeds, but couldn’t find them. Indroneel Chatterjee, a consumer psychology and marketing researcher at Oxford Brooks University in the United Kingdom, says anyone looking for edible insects in the United Kingdom should start with crickets and mealworms. “There may be supply chain issues that limit the availability of [locusts] because they are not currently mass-produced in the UK and are difficult to procure,” said Chatterjee. There is also concern that the widespread wild harvest of insects in some countries may only put more pressure on the decline in insect populations already threatened by climate change, disease and pesticides.

However, in Europe and the United States, an increasing number of companies specialize in raising edible insects. Bagfarm, the UK’s first edible insect farm, is based in St. Davids, Wales, and sells a variety of insect snacks, including crickets, spicy orange chocolate biscuits, and seaweed buffalo insect biscuits. We also sell cricket powder and whole crickets for home cooking and baking. Bug Farm believes that encouraging children to try bugs can make them more attractive. “Especially children are so open-minded that we believe that working with them can change their attitudes in the long run. They are future buyers,” says Elinor Philp, who works at Bugfarm.

Bug Farm has developed a new type of food VEXo made from insect and plant proteins and provided it to 200 Welsh school children in Bolognese during the 2019 pilot period. Before trying VEXo, 27% of students said they would choose for school lunch, but after trying it, 56% said they would choose. “In the next few years, I strongly believe that if young people learn about edible insects and VEXo, they will start shopping for their families and say,” Oh, insects: they’re just different kinds of food. ” “Philip says. Bugfarm says that crushing dried insects into energy and putting them in a dish is one of the best ways to appeal to people who are hesitant to eat insects.

Aly Moore, who spreads edible insects through the blog Bugible, says he uses cricket powder for his breakfast protein shake every morning. “It’s perfect for protein bioavailability, other nutrients, sustainability, and no bloating,” she says. “I can’t recommend it anymore.” Moore, Chief Communications Officer at Chapul Farms, which builds and operates an insect farm in the United States, sampled locusts for the first time on a trip to Mexico in 2012. “I was curious, so I decided to give it a try. They were delicious and changed my life forever,” she says. “There is a lot of research going on and the insect industry is growing fast,” she says.

Attitudes have already changed and demand for edible insects is increasing. By 2027, the edible insect market is expected to reach $ 4.63 billion (£ 3.36 billion). Insects as food are offered not only in specialty stores, but also in European supermarket chains such as Carrefour and Sainsbury’s, and cricket milkshakes are included in the menu of the US fast food chain Wayback Burgers. However, even if you don’t plan to buy edible insects right away, you may already be eating them. They can inadvertently invade their food by being caught in the fresh produce we eat or accidentally mixed with products such as pasta, cakes and bread. The US Food and Drug Administration also has a tolerance for the amount of insect contamination that can be tolerated in food before withdrawal. For example, a 100g chocolate bar can contain up to 60 insect debris (part of the insect, not the whole body) before the FDA takes regulatory action. Flour can contain up to 75 insect parts per 50 g (1.8 ounces), while macaroni and pasta can contain up to 225 insect parts per 225 g (8 ounces). “Removing all insect debris at harvest is just not worth the energy,” says Philp.

But aside from this accidental ingestion, many scientists say that if the world wants to achieve the dual goal of providing more nutritious foods with a smaller environmental footprint, then eating insects. I believe that a wide range of squeaks may need to be changed. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the next locust season and enjoying my favorite treats.

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Source: BBC

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