Human use of insects as food.

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Meredith Hanel
Meredith Hanel edited on 27 Aug 2019 1:16 pm
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Entomophagy is the technical term for eating insects. The practice is common in many tropical countries where certain insect species grow to large sizes, and they are abundant and relatively easy to harvest year round. Certain insects as food are a source of proteins, vitamins, fats, and essential minerals. More than 2000 insect species are considered edible. Insects and other invertebrates are consumed by 3000 ethnic groups across 113 countries in Asia, Australia and Central and South America. Eighty percent of the world’s population consumes insects. The most common edible insects are moths, cicadas, beetles, mealworms, flies, grasshoppers and ants. 


Insects have high crude protein levels of 40-75%, contain all essential amino acids, are rich in fatty acids and have a high proportion of dietary fiber. Insects are calorie dense. The calorific value of 94 insect species were found to be 50% higher than soybeans, 87% higher than maize, 63% higher than beef and 70% higher than fish. In mealworms the composition of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is comparable to that of fish. Other insects with ideal fatty acid ratios include house crickets, short-tailed crickets, Bombay locusts and scarab beetles. Nutritional content of insects depends on their diet, sex, life stage, origin and environmental factors as well as on the preparation and cooking methods used.


Insect farming could provide an alternative to livestock farming that uses less land and, emits less greenhouse gases and provide a solution to global food insecurity. Insects are cold-blooded and therefore use less energy to maintain their internal body temperatures, which means they are efficient at converting their food into protein. Crickets need 17 kilograms of feed to produce 1 kilogram of meat and about 80 percent of the cricket is edible. To produce 1 kilogram of beef, a cow requires 8 kilograms of feed. Only 40 percent of the cow can be eaten.