Currently, the world population is approximately 7.5 billion people. Accounting for an average of about 3% of the population in any given country being vegetarian, we’re still looking at about 7.3 billion people to feed.
Based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines, only 1 in 7 Australians meet the recommended intake of meat! The average Australian adult consumes only about 1.7 serves of meat and alternatives per day, compared to the recommended intakes as shown below.
That means for optimal health, we should be eating up to double the amount of meat that we currently consume! Imagine the impact of this demand on our livestock industry!
So to fill in the gaps in demand, we must turn to alternative sources such as insects. Let’s look at the science and nutrition behind these solutions.
Insects as a protein source
Insects and other bugs are traditionally eaten in some cultures around the world. Walk down the street in Thailand and you will see street vendors with skewers of scorpions, spiders, grubs and crickets.
Not only is there a much bigger variety of bugs compared to mammals, they have a much more variable nutrition content too! The nutrition composition varies not only between species but also depending on gender, life stage (e.g. larvae or adult), temperature and basically any factor that affects the growth of the bugs. Insects also require a much smaller space to grow and in fact can be raised in trays stacked on top of each other, kind of like a bug skyscraper. We can, therefore, grow a much larger biomass of protein in a much smaller space.
So how do bugs compare nutritionally? They’re not quite as high in protein as meats but they still pack quite a punch. They’re generally lower in fats and therefore tend to have fewer calories! Below, we have a comparison of 3 different types of bugs against beef and whole milk.
Let’s look at crickets. Adult crickets are currently one of the most popular insects used as food since they are so versatile. Depending on the temperature, eggs can hatch within 2 weeks and crickets can grow to their adult size within a month from hatching! This is clearly much faster than rearing cattle or sheep where the gestation time itself takes several months. Crickets are almost half the calories compared to the same amount beef, with about half the amount of fat and comparable amounts of protein. While we throw out the bones and various offal pieces from cows, there is next to no waste with crickets (some people prefer to remove wings and legs before eating)!
Keen to try it? Most cricket products are available online and the range is huge. From cricket protein balls to cricket pasta, the list is endless! You can even buy cricket and silkworm flour. Recipes online teach you how to make everything from cricket banana bread to ‘shish ke-bug’ (marinated crickets wrapped in bacon, skewered with veggies and grilled on the bbq).
Written by: Helen Ying