Food Supply

Edible Insects – Will They Become a Global Diet Staple?

By The Editors

The human population keeps growing – by 2050, it’s likely there will be 9 billion people on our planet – or our village.  Food may become scarce.  What can we do to make sure there is enough of it for the growing population?  We need to think differently, and look across cultures to find ways for increasing food security.

Edible insects have always been a part of human diets.  It is estimated that over 2 billion people normally eat them.  Insects are considered delicacies in many parts of the world, particularly in the tropics. However, in many cultures, there is a main barrier to eating insects — “consumer disgust”.

Edible zompopos de mayo - Wikimedia Commons
Edible zompopos de mayo – Wikimedia Commons

To start educating the world about the benefits of edible insects, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) released a few days ago a very interesting publication on this unexplored (for many of us) food source.

Insects are high in protein, fat and mineral contents. They can be eaten whole or ground into a powder or paste, and incorporated into other foods.  According to the FAO publication, farming insects for human and animal consumption is particularly relevant at this time.  

Population growth and urbanization have increased the demand for food while simultaneously harming the environment.  Land and water pollution from intensive livestock production and over-grazing are leading to forest degradation, thereby contributing to climate change. Insect farming might help alleviate these problems.

Wide variety of insects on sale at a local market in northern Thailand. Photo: P.B. Durst.

Insect consumption is not expected to enter the Western culture in the immediate future. While waiting, it is important to raise awareness about the potential of insects as food, so to increase the level of acceptance among consumers — especially in the Western countries.



  • Haley M

    This post was very interesting to me because I did not know that insects are considered entrees in certain parts of the world. I know that kids may eat them on the playground because they “don’t know any better” but now knowing that this is what meals are coming to it is very interesting. Right now I am close minded to the idea of eating insects and I do not foresee this changing, but maybe one day that could change.

  • nicole_v23

    I can’t say that I have every knowingly or intentionally consumed an insect however I am fully aware that it has happened, although, the thought of someone sitting around and eating a bag of crickets as if they were potato chips makes me cringe. I wouldn’t eat an insect primarily because they scare me but now thinking about it so do birds and I love to eat chicken. I know that it is acceptable in many cultures worldwide but not in the western culture. However, I think that it is a practice that our culture can become accustomed to especially considering our growing population.

  • FurElise

    The use of insects as food has been around for quite some time in many countries. However, in the western world, it is not as accepted due to disgust towards them. They may contain protein, fats and other nutrients that are essential for life, but some people, myself included, cannot psychologically overcome the “grossness” factor towards them. They only way I can see myself and others ingesting insects as a meal is if they are added into food inconspicuously. This outlook on this issue may change someday, but I do not see it becoming a viable option in the western world anytime soon.

  • chow26

    As unappealing insect eating is, push will come to shove regarding survival and basic necessities, including food. That will be especially true for the next century or two if massive climate changes and resource wastefulness continues. We probably are building up an endurance towards it as carmine, a food coloring called for various food products, is made by dried bug remains.

  • Nisha Hudda

    I have just gained insight on entomophagy, the consumption of insects. I have not visited many countries that practice this sort of diet. Information derived from another source states “The consumption of insects is common in Asia, Africa and Latin America.” This is quite interesting to me because I have been to many parts of south Asia, and this practice has never been spoken of.
    After doing some side reading on this topic I have learned that insects are being used in our society in ways that we are completely unaware of. The Italian aperitif, which is an alcoholic beverage, has the red coloring, which is derived from the cochineal, an insect exported from Peru. Many brands use this insect to create the pinkish red color in strawberry yogurt. There are many pharmaceutical companies that use the coloring from insects in their pills, which we are completely unaware of.

  • cns2392

    I don’t see insect meals becoming a popular entree item here in the US anytime soon… While consuming insects may not be harmful and may be just as nutritious as any other healthy meal, when it comes to choosing between a colorful salad with steak cooked to order or twenty-five toothpick kabobs of ants, I think most would choose the first for a few reasons: 1) Visual appeal. A colorful plate is generally more appetizing than one full of brown/black hues. 2) Set in our ways. Why change from something desirable to something less desirable if given a choice? This article thinks Western countries will take time to change, and I agree. Eastern countries would probably struggle accepting this type of change if they were not used to it AND had the option. 3) Negative connotations. Insects are not just thought of as disgusting, but also feared. Many would rather see a spider dead under their shoe than served to them on a silver platter. And I cannot fathom a society paying for such a meal either from a grocer and prepared at home or out at a fine dining establishment.

    For such an event to occur in Western societies, a complete rewiring of our mental views would be required.

  • Robbie A

    I’ve been following this topic on several blogs for the past few days, mostly because I’m 100% vegetarian and I’m curios to know what people have to say about insect meals. I’m surprised. It looks like plenty of people here in the Western world think of insects as something disgusting to eat, and come up with different opinions on why this is so. However, I find the entire “insect meal” different from what we’re used to. Meaning, what’s different about eating insects is that you eat the whole insect, not just some selected part of it. It would be like eating an entire chicken, or an entire cow – normally people don’t do that here. I’m not talking in terms of size, but in terms of everything that is contained in the entire animal body. I think people would be more willing to eat insects if they could chose what to eat exactly of an insect – insect wings, for example, as they eat chicken wings…

    • bcastro3

      I think the way you explain how eating a bug wouldn’t be any different than eating what we normally eat, chicken and beef for example, if it were sold or distributed in separate parts is very good. Although it would take a long time for the western side to even consider it being a part of the daily diet introducing it by selling “wings” would be ideal and perhaps call more attention than eating whole bugs. There is a really good documentaries that follows a couple american families who actually have a diet consisting of mainly insects in the series called “taboo”.

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