Would You Like Fries With Your Insect Burger, Ma’am?

A trip to a supermarket is a rare luxury in a pandemic lockdown, but were I to cruise the aisles with my basket today I’d probably come away with a healthy pile of fruit and veg, a bit of meat and fish, and maybe some cheese. My shopping basket in 2031 though might have a few extras, and perhaps surprisingly some of them might be derived from insects. That’s a future made a little closer, by EU scientists declaring that farmed insect products are safe for humans and animals to eat.

Global map showing meat consumption in 2013
Is meat consumption at this level sustainable? Our World In Data, CC BY 3.0.

We humans, like some of our fellow great ape cousins, are omnivores. We can eat anything, even if we might not always want to eat some things twice. As such, the diets of individual populations would in the past have varied hugely depending on the conditions that existed wherever they lived, giving us the ability to spread to almost anywhere on the planet — and we have.

Over the past few hundred years this need to subsist only on foods locally available has been marginalized by advances in agriculture. For those of us in developed countries, any foodstuff that takes our fancy can be ours for a trivial effort. This has meant an explosion of meat consumption as what was once a luxury food has become affordable to the masses, and in turn a corresponding agricultural expansion to meet demand that has placed intolerable stresses on ecosystems and is contributing significantly to global warming. It’s very clear that a mass conversion to veganism is unlikely to take place, so could farmed insects be the answer to our cravings for meat protein? It’s likely to be a tough sell to consumers, but it’s a subject that bears more examination. Continue reading “Would You Like Fries With Your Insect Burger, Ma’am?”