Don’t chicken out: Eat insects.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization just released a report that strongly suggests bug consumption, both to curb hunger in developing countries and shrink waistlines in the Western world. Since the planet’s population is on track to top 9 billion by 2050, we’d better get used to noshing on the creepy crawly critters, which are supremely nutritious and one of the most efficient ways to turn plant matter into protein, the 191-page study explains.
You’ve in all likelihood already ingested some – or a derivative thereof. Forbes notes that cochineal, used in food dye, comes from a cactus-chomping bug. Earworms burrow into corncobs to munch on silk and end up in canned corn. And the FDA allows 20 maggots in every 100 grams of mushrooms and 2,500 aphids for every 10 grams of hops.
Your older siblings probably scared you with tales of how you swallow about eight spiders a year in your sleep (although that stat might be a bunch of bunk).
Secret insect parts in your food isn’t a problem for much of the Western world. It’s when it looks like a bug, walks like a bug and crunches like a spicy fried beetle that Americans get a little jumpy. We’d generally rather not see the semblance of our food’s living form.
No one’s arguing the nutritional value of entomophagy, but Forbes questions the U.N.’s claims that the world will run short of conventional food. For three reasons, it says: Crops yields are growing 1 percent or more a year, production levels have room to grow in places like Africa and half the world’s food gets wasted anyway.
So really, in that light, food shortages are more a matter of preserving the food supply than finding other things to eat.
“Some of that waste is us in the rich world buying too much, not finishing our plates and so on,” writes Forbes contributor Tim Worstall. “But the vast majority of it is, ironically, being eaten by those very bugs that we’re being told to go and eat.”
Up to half the food in impoverished countries rots before it gets from harvest to plate.
“If we could just get such poor country food losses down to the same sort of level of loss we have in the rich countries then, again, there would be no shortage of food.”
Of course bringing grain elevators, processing plants, quick transportation and refrigerated grocery stores to, say, Zimbabwe is no simple task.
Find Jennifer Wadsworth on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.