When Did Consuming Bugs Begin? A Short History of Entomophagy

When Did Consuming Bugs Begin? A Short History of Entomophagy

When Did Consuming Bugs Begin? A Short History of Entomophagy

While eating bugs has gained more attention in recent years; it’s a practice that has been around for thousands of years. Throughout the history of entomophagy, individuals chose to eat bugs for enjoyment. With Native Americans opting to eat grasshopper flour, bug fruitcakes, and fried cicadas. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization states that our population has been eating these creatures for thousands of years. This is often referred to as entomophagy. They are more prominently found in tropical climates. There they are readily available throughout the year in large quantities, making them an excellent protein-rich food option.

Eating Bugs for Survival | Eating Insects Around the World | The Stigma Surrounding Eating Insects |

Insect Agriculture Industry

history of entomophagy

Eating Bugs for Survival

Heading back in time thousands of years, bugs were eaten to survive, with both men and women hunting to gather these bugs to increase their intake of protein and healthy fats. Native Americans were known for roasting June beetles or cooking cicadas, which are often believed to have a seafood-like taste. They learned ways to attract and trap these creatures in huge numbers. And this trend dates back to the beginnings of mankind. In The Old Testament, eating beetles, grasshoppers, and locusts was mentioned, and the ancient Greeks and Romans continued with this tradition. Aristotle even talked about how to find cicadas.

In Southeast Asia and Africa, termites have been consumed for many years. In Kenya, they are even eaten straight from their mound. Termites are protein-rich and contain many amino acids, with a taste that’s reminiscent of mint, carrots or nuts. Even in Ghana today, they are often eaten in the spring. They can be roasted, fried, or transformed into a loaf of delicious bread.

However, heading into countries in Europe or the US, consuming bugs is still considered abnormal. Primarily due to the weather conditions being far less hospitable for bugs. The lack of biodiversity in Europe means that the continent is only home to less than two percent of the edible insects found around the world. In these countries, bugs also have a very negative perception, whether they are seen as pests. Throughout Western cultures, it’s also believed we don’t have the enzyme in our bodies that can break the exoskeletons of insects down once they are consumed. This is now known to be false but is one of the reasons individuals still don’t trust eating insects today.

Eating Insects Around the World

Half of the world’s population already eats insects today. When you travel around the world, you’ll see dishes containing insects on various menus. Head to Mexico, and you’ll find there are over 549 species on offer. They are often added to tacos and other culinary delights. Ant eggs are treated with the same reverence as caviar and have a delicious nutty taste. Colombia and Brazil are home to Leafcutter ants, which are even sold like popcorn when watching a movie. Over in China, larvae from beehives are eaten, and Bali boils dragonflies without their wings in coconut milk.

If you get the opportunity to travel to Asia keep your eyes peeled when walking through their street food markets. You’ll often see silkworms on offer in China, Japan, and South Korea. Silkworms are served like tofu or are added to traditional dishes. Sago Grubs are a popular delicacy in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea and are rich in macronutrients.

history of entomophagy

The Stigma Surrounding Eating Insects

Within Western cultures, a strong stigma towards eating insects has been formed. But the world is starting to change and is beginning to consider insects as a more sustainable source of protein. Already over two billion people in the world eat insects. Insects are known to be rich in nutrients and are a more sustainable solution than eating meat or fish. Since researchers began looking into insects within Western countries and their uses for both animal and human feed, more people have started to question and accept this new type of food. In fact, bugs were then showcased at dinner parties and conferences, becoming an attraction in themselves thanks to these forward-thinking individuals. More research is constantly being completed into farming techniques and how insects could be incorporated into our daily lives.

In 2013, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a report about edible insects. One of the biggest concerns in the past decade has been feeding our growing population. It is estimated to hit nine billion people by the year 2050. Solving this problem is a high priority for researchers today. Especially as concerns surrounding the environment and sustainability continue to increase. With six million downloads of this paper, it was immediately clear that the level of interest in edible insects is huge.

Insect Agriculture Industry

The insect agriculture industry has continued to grow over the past decades. Over 250 countries are globally dedicated to this type of farming. It’s forecasted to reach a worth of $1.5 billion by 2022, as research and development continue each year. With thirty companies in the US alone growing insects for consumption by animals and humans, they’ve received private investments from well-known entrepreneurs, including Arielle Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban. Individuals from all walks of life are backing this research as a solution for fixing the future issues we are bound to face with our growing population.

Insect farms offer many of the same benefits as traditional farms, working to produce food and employ individuals across the country. It’s a very scalable and efficient solution, which is known to improve the environment in comparison to traditional feed production options. With the increased need for food production in the upcoming years, we can only expect more money to be poured into this area of research. Insects are still only in the early phases of being used for feed and human consumption. However, they are already proving to be a safe and sustainable option that could change our world. We can’t wait to follow this development in the future and see how insects start to play a more prominent role in our everyday diet.

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