With the world population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050one of the greatest challenges in our lives will be to ensure enough food for everyone.
We have limited land and water resources, and climate change, environmentally damaging practices and emerging diseases threaten supply chains.
One way to deal with this is to turn to our insect friends. But don’t begrudge – more than two billion people from 130 countries already eat insects. Many Australians are already doing it too, in the form of cochineal red food coloringor the 5% peanut butter which is legally allowed to contain insect fragments.
Today we have taken a step towards introducing insects into traditional Australian diets, with the launch of CSIRO’s Edible Insect Industry Roadmap. It lays out a comprehensive plan exploring the challenges and opportunities for Australia to become a player in a valued global industry. AU$1.4 billion by 2023.
The roadmap provides a practical framework for anyone interested in getting a piece of the cricket pie, including new start-up insect companies, farmers, food producers, researchers, policy makers and business owners. First Nations. To unlock the agricultural potential of Australia’s native insect species, we need to form new collaborations, co-develop First Nations-owned initiatives and conduct more research.
By becoming braver in our food choices and incorporating insects into our diet, we can reduce our environmental footprint, improve our health, and be more connected to our land and culture. We bet you, your friends and your pets will really enjoy it.
So here are four reasons why you should throw another bug at the barbie. Go ahead, we dare you!
1. Australia has a long tradition of eating insects
We have a growing appetite for eating insects. A 2006 report reveals 20% of Australians surveyed say they crave a witjuti grub (sometimes spelled witchetty grub).
After all, First Nations Australians have been eating insects for tens of thousands of years, including iconic native species such as witjuti larvae which taste like scrambled eggs with hazelnuts, bogong butterflies that taste like peanut butter or tangy lime green ants.
These are just a few of 60 native species of edible insects registered in Australia.
First Nations owned and run businesses are key to transforming our native insect species into culturally celebrated and delicious new Australian branded foods.
We must ensure that First Nations intellectual property is protected and benefits are shared to ensure an inclusive edible insect industry.
2. Insects can help improve our health
Edible insects are not only tasty, but are also a great source high quality protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, folic acid and vitamins B12, C and E.
Recent studies abroad have shown that eating edible insects – such as silkworms, wax moth caterpillars and mealworms – can improve gut health, arterial pressureand reduce blood sugar level.
More research is needed to identify species and determine the nutritional profiles of our native insects to see which ones we should eat to maximize their human health benefits.
(Sorry to anyone curious about insects with shellfish allergies, but insects are related to shellfish and can cause similar allergic reactions).
3. Edible insect food is already available
It may seem like a food of the future, but edible insect products are already available to buy in some Australian supermarkets.
Aussie start-up and insect breeders working with Australian Insect Protein Association cultivate insects and transform them into new edible products. You can even ask your own insect nutritionist to help you on your journey to edible insects.
If you’re feeling curious, why not try smoked cricket and black roasted peanut butter, and make delicious nachos with cricket corn chips or spaghetti with cricket pasta? Maybe wash it down with some tangy lime tree ant infused gin.
And when you’re feeling more adventurous, take your baking to the next level by fortifying your muffins, breads or pie crusts with protein-rich cricket powder.
What about the dog? Try feeding your beloved pet a longer lasting pet food made from roasted black soldier flies or mealworms.
4. Insect farming is better for the environment
Compared to conventional farm animals like beef, pork and chicken, insects produce less greenhouse gas because they poop less and generally don’t ferment foods in their intestines that produce methane (only cockroaches and termites can produce methane this way).
They also produce minimal waste, since 80-100% of the animal is eaten. Even insect waste (called droppings) can be turned into nutrient-rich fertilizers great for the garden.
Plus, Australian insect farmers are reducing the carbon footprint of transport by developing urban mini-farms, making it possible to produce sustainable protein closer to home. And insects could one day help farmers by supplementing farm animal feed in times of drought.
By creating new collaborations between First Nations peoples, researchers, insect keepers and policy makers, Australia can tap into its native insects to create delicious, healthy and sustainable new insect foods.