Insect Food Culture

We all know that this idea is notgoing to sell well but the fact it that we have not really tackled thepossibilities at all.  After all, simplemaggots growing on good food produce a good tasting product.  So insect husbandry will turn out to be apiece of cake compared to everything else we have domesticated.

What needs to be done is toexplore the multiple species to locate optimal characteristics first, insteadof long after an industry is established. I have already suggested that human waste processing through a maggotculture that captures the maggots upon emergence may be very practical. Thesecan then be cleaned up and made into a high quality chicken feed.

The important idea is to masterthe art and adapt it into our animal food chain to produce a high quality endproduct.  Chicken, fish and swine feedare all excellent beginnings.  None ofthese need any special insect upgrades to make suitable for human consumption.

I think that while we do havefolks eating insects per se it will never be easy to popularize unless we canproduce a shrimp like meat product which should not be too hard.  We will have to give it a strange name tomake selling easier.

The natural efficiencies of aninsect culture will provide an economic advantage that will tell in time.  Recall that the present hugely expanded fishsupply is now fifty percent produced by aquaculture already and that was donein the past forty years.  The next fortyyears will bring it up to over ninety percent and the unit cost will continue todecline.

There is a natural limit to howmuch beef we can produce, although it is far higher than anyone can imagine,but as our capacity to water the arid zones and do other climate modification,the cow will naturally need to be used more sparingly, yet more persuasively.  I include other ruminants and ungulates inthat mix as a key secondary role is to process the natural environment.

Insect protein can be produced inorders of magnitude greater amounts than animal protein and can easily becomeimportant as needed.  We are just a longway from any need except as novelty.

New Idea to Reduce Global Warming: Everyone Eat Insects

by Wynne Parry, LiveScienceSenior Writer
Date: 18 February 2011

A delicious bug meal, another way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Hans Smid / 

There is a rational, even persuasive, argument for voluntarily eatinginsects: Bugs are high in protein, require less space to grow and offer a moreenvironmentally friendly alternative to the vertebrates we Westerners prefer,advocates of the bug fare say.

However, this topic is not a hotbed of research, so while some dataexist — in particular on the protein content of insects — there are someassumptions built into the latter part of this argument.

"The suggestion that insects would be more efficient has beenaround for quite some time," said Dennis Oonincx, an entomologist at Wageningen Universityin the Netherlands.He and other researchers decided to test it, by comparing the greenhousegas emissionsfrom five species of insects with those of cattle and pigs.

The results, Oonincx said, "really are quite hopeful."

Untapped potential

For much of the world, eating insects — officially called entomophagy —is neither strange nor disgusting nor exotic. In southern Africa,Mopani worms — the caterpillars of Emperor moths — are popular snacks. TheJapanese have enjoyed aquatic insect larvae since ancient times, andchapulines, otherwise known as grasshoppers, are eaten in Mexico. Butthese traditions are noticeably absent in Europe and European-derived cultures,like the United States.

Insects' nutritional content, small size and fast reproduction rateshave also made them appealing solutions to problems traditional agriculturecan't solve. For instance, a task force affiliated with the Japanese spaceagency has looked to insects like silkworms and termites as a self-replenishingsupply of fats and amino acids for astronauts onextended missions.

For children from 6 months to 3 years of age, low calories and lowprotein are the main causes of death, about 5 million a year, according toFrank Franklin, a professor and director of pediatric nutrition at the University of Alabamaat Birmingham.Protein from insects could offer a less expensive solution if processed into aform similar to Plumpy'Nut, a peanut-based food for those suffering frommalnutrition, he said.

Franklin embraced the arguments for entomophagyafter learning about it roughly a year ago.

"The more I looked at it, the more it made incredible sense thatthis would be an important nutritional advance that is only going to bring backwhat has probably been there since the primitive man," he told LiveScience.

The comparison

A 2006 report by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization blamedthe livestock sector for a sizable portion of humans' greenhouse gas emissions– 9 percent ofour carbon dioxide emissions (much of this originates in changes inland use), 37 percent of our methane and 65 percent of our nitrous oxideemissions.

Oonincx and his colleagues used two important livestock animals, pigsand cattle, and compared existing data on their emissions of these greenhousegases, plus ammonia, with data they collected from five species of insects:mealworms, house crickets, migratory locusts, sun beetles and Argentinecockroaches. The latter two species are not considered edible, at least notdirectly. Their taste is just not good, Oonincx said, however, proteinextracted from them could be added to foods.

To quantify the animals' greenhouse gas footprints, the team measuredthe five insects' growth rates and their production of the greenhouse gases andammonia — also a pollutant but not a greenhouse gas. They compared these todata already available on the cattle and pigs' growth rate and the rates atwhich they emitted the same pollutants.

Cattle produced the least carbon dioxide per unit of body mass.However, the picture changed once growth rate was considered. The dataindicated that insects grow more rapidly, and they emit less carbon dioxide perunit of weight gained than do cattle and pigs. The cockroach was the clearwinner in this latter category; meanwhile, cattle produced the most carbondioxide per pound (or kilogram) gained. [The Truth aboutCockroaches]

The insects generally produced less methane, nitrous oxide and ammoniaboth per unit of body mass and per unit of mass gained than pigs orcattle. 

"It proves the hypothesis that insects can be a more efficientsource [of protein], and I definitely believe there is a future for edibleinsects," Oonincx said. "It may not be as the animal as such butregarding protein extraction there is a lot to be learned and a lot to begained."

Solving the livestock problem

There are strategies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions associatedwith raising livestock but these improvements can't bring about reductionsnecessary to meet emissions targets intended tocurb global warming, write the authors of a paper published in the medicaljournal the Lancet in November 2009.

Their solution: a 30 percent reduction in livestock production, andtherefore, a drop in meat consumption. This would mean diets with lesssaturated fat and fewer premature deaths caused by heartdisease, they write. (The researchers note that not everyone needs toreduce meat consumption; agriculture produces enough fat, protein and othernutrients to feed all of us, but food isn't distributed equally, resulting inmalnutrition and starvation in some places.)

A policy that reduces our hamburgers and barbeque is likely toencounter resistance, one of the authors, Alan Dangour, of the London Schoolof Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, acknowledged. However, so will a push toswitch to insects, he told LiveScience in an e-mail.

"It is clearly worthwhile investigating alternative sources ofhigh-quality protein," Dangourwrote. "However, the practical barriersto eating insects (in Westernized societies) are extremely large and perhapscurrently even likely to be insurmountable."
David Gracer, an American advocate for entomophagy who co-organized aconference on the subject in December, welcomed the findings.

"It is wonderful to see science showing the world that what isinstinctively apparent is actually factually correct," Gracer said."The point is that most scientists in Western nations are too busyignoring this subject to go ahead and take it seriously, and as soon as peopledo so, the experiments simply reinforce what we already assumed was true."

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