Eat your bugs…or no dessert

Eighty percent of the world today eats insects. On purpose. And according to Marcel Dicke, an insect enthusiast who spoke at “TED” in London recently, that number will only continue to rise. Dicke predicts that by the year 2050, you will also be indulging in these six-legged creatures.

“We’re not on a planet of men,” Dicke said, “But we’re on a planet of insects.”

Dicke’s argument, why not eat insects, emphasizes insects’ importance to not only the environment but also the economy. The nutrients found in insects are extremely comparable to other animals such as pigs and cows, and insect meat production is less intrusive and destructive to the delicate ecosystem. Dicke claims that once one’s attitude is changed, the answer is clear and simple, and even quite delicious.

“It’s just a matter of mindset; we’re not used to it,” said Dicke.

The world is rapidly growing, and with an increasing population comes a stronger demand for food – essentially meat. According to Dicke, 80 kilograms of meat is consumed per person each year in the developed world. By 2050 however, the world’s developed population is predicted to increase by 1/3, and that will result in an even more massive demand for meat.

According to Dicke, insects benefit the US economy by approximately $57 billion each year, and they are doing this without much notice from mankind – not to mention completely free of charge. Insects control pests, they’re food for animals, they pollinate plants and they fertilize with their dung, along with other important tasks.

In fact, insects are so present in the environment that they can be found in places that may seem surprising to some, such as processed foods. Essentially we are already eating 500 grams of insects per year through products such as peanut butter and tomato soup, said Dicke. Chocolate for instance can contain up to 60 insect components – that’s 100 grams of insects.

“Anything is a good protein source already,” said Dicke.

Insect mean takes fewer resources than pig meat to produce, and yet there is no added risk of diseases such as swine flu or mad cow disease. Grasshopper meat for example, is equally as valuable as beef is, said Dicke. They both contain the same essential nutrients and proteins, and the calorie-value actually swings more in favor of the grasshopper.

So Dicke’s question remains – “Why not eat insects?” After all, Dicke reminded his audience that grasshoppers are known as the shrimp of the land, and shrimp are considered by many in today’s society to be a delicacy. All it will take is a simple outlook adjustment said Dicke. Once that is accomplished, the world of 6 million insect species opens up to us, and to our stomachs.