Could insects be the super food of the future? -


Could insects be the super food of the future?

There is a natural food that could save us from global food shortages, and is high in protein,  low-fat, and helps the environment.

It can also add a crisp, nutty flavor to some of your favorite recipes, but there's only one catch. Most varieties have six legs.

About two billion people around the world regularly eat insects according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture.

Americans, however, aren't rapidly joining them, or at least, they don't think they are.

But here is something to chew on.

Did you realize the average person eats about a pound of insects and insect parts every year?

"We all eat far more insects than we're aware of," said Stan Schneider, a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

The bulk of these bugs are out of sight, but still in your mouth.

At least that's according to the Food and Drug Administration which is the agency that set limits on the amount of insect heads, thoraxes, and legs permitted in the food products Americans eat.

For instance, the limit on bug parts allowed in a can of peanut butter is 30 insect parts per 100 grams.

"They're so abundant, there's no way to keep them out," Schneider said.

He says we really shouldn't try to eliminate bugs from our food supply either.

"As the human population expands, there is an increasing need for protein and water so the consumption of insects is going to become more and more a solution," Schneider said.

The cricket, wasp or beetle you swat at, packs a lot of protein, and contains important minerals like Iron and Zinc.

Insects are far easier and cheaper to raise than livestock. For example, 10 pounds of feed yields only about a pound of beef versus up to six pounds of insect meat.

Insects also offer up a buffet of bug options. In fact, there are more than a thousand edible varieties, plus insects produce other foods you probably already really enjoy.

"Honey is highly processed bee vomit, but its delicious," Schneider said.

The pretty red color you see in naturally-tinted juices and candies may be from the crushed carcass of the Cochineal which is an insect from South America.

If you are completely grossed out by this, well, don't be.

Scientists and world health officials aren't recommending you go hunt through your backyard with a fork, but when raised in controlled conditions, insects are actually very clean organisms that can make offer a variety of menu options.

"If you watch them, insects spend a great deal of time grooming themselves because they have modifications to their exoskeleton that they use as sensory organs," Schneider said. "They have to keep them clean in order to keep them operational. So, like cats, insects can spend a great deal of time cleaning themselves."

Instead of grabbing a can of pesticide, consider reaching for the salt and pepper.

Insects may be planet earth's super food of the near future that you've already been dining on for decades.

While the thought of eating insects may gross you out, chances are, you haven't thought twice about dipping shrimp in cocktail sauce before swallowing the curled, fleshy crustacean. 

Did you know crustaceans and insects are in the same phylum, and they are evolutionarily very closely related? Both are bottom feeders and, arguably, tasty appetizers!

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Additional Information:

The following information is from a Wall Street Journal article (Source:

  • As global population booms and demand for meat strains, insects may be a
    protein alternative.
  • Insects are high in protein, B vitamins, and minerals like iron and zinc. They
    are low in fat.
  • Insects are easier to raise than livestock.
  • Insects are abundant, 1,000 edible species have been identified.
  • Described as having a "nutty" flavor: worms, crickets, dung beetles, weaver-ant pupae, grasshoppers.
  • Crispy Cricket recipe: preheat oven to 225 degrees. Strip antennae, limbs, and
    wings from 20-30 clean, frozen adult crickets. Spread on a lightly oiled baking
    sheet and back until crisp, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle on salad or put them in
    a coffee grinder to make bug flour.
  • Less than 0.5% of all known insects are harmful to people, farm animals or
    crops. When raised under hygienic conditions they are perfectly safe, but
    eating them from the back yard isn't recommended.
  • The human population is expected to grow from 6 billion in 2000 to nine
    billion in 2050 while meat production doubles. Pastures use up 70% of
    agricultural land so increasing livestock production would require cutting
    acreage into rain forests and other natural lands.
  • The UN predicts beef could become an extreme luxury item by 2050, like caviar, due
    to rising production costs.
  • Insects have a lower risk of co-infection, unlike the similar diseases swine
    and humans share.
  • Insects are cold-blooded so they don't need much feed. Ten pounds of feed
    yields one pound of beef, but up to six pounds of insect meet.
  • Insects produce less waste. 30% of pork, 35% of chicken, 45% of beef and 65%
    of lamb is inedible. But only 20% of a cricket is inedible.
  • It takes more than 10 gallons of water to produce two pounds of beef, unlike
  • Can be used to replace nuts in baked goods.
  • The average person consumes about a pound of insects per year, mostly mixed
    into other foods. In the U.S., most processed foods contain small amounts of
    insects, within limits set by the Food and Drug Administration. For chocolate,
    the FDA limit is 60 insect fragments per 100 grams. Peanut butter can have up
    to 30 insect parts per 100 grams, and fruit juice can have five fruit-fly eggs
    and one or two larvae per 250 milliliters (just over a cup). We also use many
    insect products to dye our foods, such as the red dye cochineal in imitation
    crab sticks, Campari and candies. So we're already some of the way there in
    making six-legged creatures a regular part of our diet.

The following information is from in an article entitled, "U.N. touts benefits of eating insects" (Source:

  • Two billion people, largely in Asia, Africa and Latin America eat insects, according to the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture.
  • A red coloring produced from the cochineal, a scaled insect often exported from Peru, already puts the hue in an internationally popular brand of strawberry yogurt.
  • Many pharmaceutical companies also use colorings from insects in their pills.
  • Red ants, small grasshoppers and some water beetles pack enough protein to rank with lean ground beef while having less fat per gram.
  • Insects provide minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium and zinc.
  • Beetles and caterpillars are the most common meals of the 1,900 that are
    actually edible. Other popular picks include bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers,
    locusts and crickets. Less popular are termites and flies, according to UN
  • Insects can convert 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds of feed into 1 kilo (2.2 pounds of
    edible meat. Comparatively, cattle require 17.6 pounds of feed to produce a
    kilogram of meet.
  • Edible insects creates money-making jobs in Africa and Southeast Asia. A big
    water bottle of grasshoppers can bring in 15 euros or $20.
  • The FDA's Defect Levels Handbook ( lays it all out. Staples like broccoli, canned tomatoes, and hops readily contain "insect fragments" (heads, thoraxes, and legs-and even whole insects). Fig paste can harbor up to 13 insect heads in 100 grams; canned fruit juices can contain a maggot for every 250 milliliters; 10 grams of hops can be the home for 2,500 aphids.
  • The action limit for spinach is 50 or more aphids, thrips and/or mites per 100 grams. That's spinach that is 0.01% bug by weight. By the time you eat 1,000 kilograms of spinach you have eaten a quarter pounder's worth of aphid.
  • The FDA's limit on the hops that go into the tank of beer is 2,500 aphids per 10
    grams of hops. That's right, 5% of the total weight of the hops making your
    summer ale can be bug. A quarter pounder's worth of aphid butt goes into the
    brewer for every 2.5 kilograms of hops.
  • Once you eat around 100 kilograms of your favorite chocolate you've eaten a
    full kilogram of bug.
  • At anywhere from 1/25 to 1/8 of an inch long, thrips (tiny little winged parasites) are legally allowed in apple butter [], canned or frozen asparagus, frozen broccoli, and frozen Brussels sprouts.
  • Aphids can be in your frozen veggies, particularly spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. And if you home-brew beer [], you might consider growing your own hops: The FDA legally allows 2,500 aphids for every 10 grams of hops.
  • Mites are common in wheat and other grains that have been stored for a while,
    but expect to eat a few with your frozen vegetables.
  • Maggots can be found in canned mushrooms [], canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and pizza sauces, as well as fresh, frozen, or Maraschino cherries. Mushrooms are by far the worst: 20 maggots are allowed for every 100 grams of drained mushroom, compared with between 1 and 5 for every 500 grams of tomato products.
  • An 8-ounce handful of raisins and you could have you eating as many as 35 fruit-fly eggs.

 The following information is from in an article entitled "Red, Red, Whine" (Source:

  • Cochineal and carmine are derived from crushed carcasses of a particular South
    and Central American insect. It is a popular colorant used for a deep red in
    juices, gelatins, candies, shampoos and more.
  • Red Dye #40 is often mistaken for cochineal but it's bug free and derived from
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