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PETER MOORE: Grasshoppers for breakfast?

By Herald Express  |  Posted: May 23, 2013

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FANCY a lovely, nutritious meal high in unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamins? You could have fish or, equally healthy, mealworms.

A recent report from the UN suggested that we could fight obesity and ensure a healthy diet if only we would eat more insects.

We love crunchy breakfast cereals and crisps, so why not enjoy a crunchy grasshopper?

Would there be a scandal if scientists discovered horsefly DNA in food marketed as ordinary fly?

Perhaps chefs might move from coq-au-vin to cockroach-au-vin.

Almost 2,000 species of insects are already eaten around the world by more than two billion people, mainly in Africa and Asia.

So what makes up the insect diet?

If there are any pedantic entomologists reading this, I know that not all these delicious foods are, strictly speaking, insects but a 'creepy crawly diet' does not sound as appealing.

Beetles are the most popular, making up more than 30 per cent of insects eaten, although it is not clear whether we should ask for something 'with the beetles'.

Caterpillars are the next most popular food; a reversal of the very hungry caterpillar.

Then people eat bees, wasps and ants, giving a new meaning to 'ante pasta'.

Next come locusts, grasshoppers and crickets.

Cicadas, which make the classic noise of the jungle, are popular, if only to shut them up.

Finally, people enjoy termites, dragonflies and normal flies.

Details of spider diets can be found on their website.

There is already a famous restaurant in Denmark, the Noma, voted the best for three years running, serving ants and fermented grasshoppers.

If ants are one of the 'bear necessities' of life for Baloo in Disney's Jungle Book, why don't we try some?

In San Francisco, Monica Martinez company sells mealworm ice cream and wax moth tacos.

These are based on traditional Mexican foods before the arrival of the Spanish.

Are we going to see our Tex-Mex restaurants offering wax moth or an ice cream van advertising real Devon clotted cream and mealworm ice cream?

Perhaps we'll see 'I can't believe it's not butterfly' in our supermarkets.

Farming insects is also better for the environment, requiring less land.

And no insect farmer would use insecticides. It would wipe out his stock. Insects would produce fewer greenhouse gases. Have you ever seen a caterpillar with flatulence?

Insects are cold blooded and so are very efficient at converting food into protein.

Crickets need 12 times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep and half as much as chickens and pigs to convert the same amount of feed into protein.

And insects do not need expensive feeds.

They can be fed on what is euphemistically called 'organic waste streams'. This is real organic farming.

Many of the most delicious and succulent insects live in developing countries and are collected by the women.

If these became popular in the west it might help both the economies and the position of women in some of the poorest countries in the world.

And the forests will be the source of their progress leading to a desire to protect the forests rather than destroy them.

In the western world the problem is psychological.

We do not have a problem killing and eating a cow, lamb or pig but balk at eating beetle.

We will happily eat honey but do not fancy bee larvae, although bee larvae yoghurt is a great delicacy.

In blind tasting, nine out of 10 people preferred the meatballs made from a mixture of meat and mealworms than those from pure meat.

It is not clear whether the pure meat ones were horse.

The jury is still out as to whether vegetarians would be happy to eat insects; probably not. Or could they eat stick insects?

I have eaten insects but not deliberately; I once found half a caterpillar in my salad.

By 2050, there may be nine billion people on our planet.

Some seas are already over fished and the land may not sustain enough traditional farming to feed everyone.

There are already one billion chronically hungry people worldwide.

Insects may be the answer and we should not reject the idea simply because of western queasiness.

So, should I avoid leg of lamb for leg of centipede? They may be smaller but there's plenty to go round.

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