Edible insects are growing in popularity and are not only viewed as trendy additions to suburban restaurant menus, but are posing a solution to food security, global health and sustainability.
Entomophagy is the term used for eating insects and interestingly enough, 2 billion people globally consume them (2013 UN report, Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security). This growing entomological trend in restaurants includes serving protein-rich pasta made with insect flour (predominantly crickets and grasshoppers), citrusy flavoured ants replacing lemon in dishes, and mealworms starring as the key protein in pretty dishes. Australian restaurants are limited in their current insect selection but this is due to change. Insects are growing in popularity in commercial kitchens, and in 2013, the Food Standards Australia & New Zealand removed insects off a list of ‘novel’ foods.
Who would have thought that dehydrated black ants might taste a bit like citrus and Vegemite?
Maybe it’s a matter of exposure? People will become more and more comfortable with insects as foodstuff. Celebrity chefs such as Kylie Kwong and Matt Stone are on a mission to make insects more appealing. Kylie has been serving cockroaches, mealworms, crickets and even green-tree ants at her Sydney restaurant, Billy Kwong, since 2013. Her dream menu features native Australian insects such as witchetty grubs and honey ants that are currently difficult to source. Kylie’s creepy crawly menu will include:
- Stir-fried whole baby crickets with black bean and chilli
- Yabbies stir-fried in home-made chilli and cricket sauce
- Red braised, caramelised wallaby tail with Davidson plum and bee larvae
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation believes insects are the food of the future and that Western cultures need to combat their consumer disgust towards insect consumption. There is a need to find alternative protein sources to address the growing demand for meat (expected to increase globally by 76% from 2007 to 2050) and the declining availability of agricultural land. The Committee on World Food Security believes the way forward is edible insects and it will certainly become a new sector in agriculture. This same committee reports that insects provide satisfactory levels of energy and protein, are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids and are rich in vitamins and minerals. This nutritional information supports their proposal to combat mineral deficiencies in developing countries.
Experiment & Educate
To overcome reluctance to eat insects (farmed ones of course!), the following strategies are proposed:
- Make edible insects available and educate how to prepare them
- Encourage experimental tasting
- Prepare dishes that taste good and are appealing to eat
- Incorporate insects into familiar dishes
- Further education about entomophagy