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Beef or bugs: should we be eating more bugs?

In the theme of change and trying new things, we’ve got a wild recipe for you this week… The environmental gains are pretty large, and the protein and nutrients are on an almost even keel. But are bugs on the BBQ for you?

Bugs like mealworms and house crickets are back on the menu in the UK. You might have heard rumblings a while back, but post-Brexit it all went quiet. Well, they’re back, and there’s discussions about the benefits of eating bugs as a source of protein and nutrients - at a fraction of the cost and environmental impact of conventional livestock.

Insects have been found to be a nutritious food source, and are common to many world regions, but in western cultures we’re less than eager. However the United Nations says that the market for edible insects could be worth £4.6 billion by 2030, with more than 2,000 edible species identified. So should we be eating more bugs?

The environmental impact

All food production has an impact on the environment but there is a substantial variation depending on the product. For example, beef produces 100 times more greenhouse gas emissions than pea production. With plant-based and vegan diets gaining traction due to the lesser impact on the environment, are bugs right around the corner?

Cultivating insects isn’t quite as impressive as those little peas. While it can be less environmentally damaging than the production of meat, it has a higher footprint than most plant-based foods.

But to provide the same nutritional value, insect cultivation uses a fraction of the land, energy and water used for conventional livestock farming. Plus we can eat more of the insects comparably too, only 45% of cattle and 55% of a chicken is consumed on average, whereas 80% of an adult cricket can be munched.

The nutritional value

Insects are high in fat, protein and nutrients. While this varies between the species of edible insects - which 2,000 have been identified - and the stage of the life cycle, research shows adult crickets are 65% protein by weight, which is higher than both beef (23%) and tofu (8%).

Insects can provide all the essential amino acids we need as humans, and are high in minerals such as copper, iron and magnesium. So it’s not surprising that many regions are so onboard with scranning the creepy crawlies.

Fancy a squiggly snack to see for yourself? Check out our recipe card for cricket crépes and give this alternative protein source a try. You never know, changing things up in the kitchen might be a delicious discovery.

And before you tap out, we know it’s a little out there, but the acceptability of food changes over time - did you know tomatoes were dismissed in Britain for over 200 years? Lobsters, the now expensive delicacy, used to be so common in the US they were served to workers and prisoners, even used as fertiliser! You might find edible bugs in big supermarkets or online if you’re daring to be different!




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