The search for sustainable protein sources is on.
In 2013, the United Nations released a report that recommended we reconsider what we know about food.
The report, put out by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), painted a dire picture. (Don't worry, though, they've got a plan, and we'll get to that in a bit).
"It is widely accepted that by 2050 the world will host 9 billion people. To accommodate this number, current food production will need to almost double. Land is scarce and expanding the area devoted to farming is rarely a viable or sustainable option. Oceans are overfished and climate change and related water shortages could have profound implications for food production. ... We need to find new ways of growing food." — Eduardo Rojas-Briales and Ernst van den Ende, U.N. FAO Report, 2013
Told you it was rough, but let's look at what they're recommending.
Their plan? We need to start eating insects. Believe it or not, more than 2 billion people already do. On purpose.
People across Africa, Asia, Australia, and Latin America have been known to use beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, and nearly 2,000 other species of insects to spice up their diets.
The FAO recommends we start eating insects for three reasons: health, environment, and livelihood.
The health argument: When compared to beef, chicken, pork, or fish, insects have a surprisingly high amount of protein while still being really low in fat. Generally speaking, this is already a healthier alternative than the more common forms of meat.
The environment argument: Climate change is real, and it's made worse through the release of greenhouse gases such as methane. The world's livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases — more than the entire transportation sector. So, yes, if we've got to break it down like that, cow farts do contribute to climate change (it's OK to laugh, but it's a fact). This doesn't even take into account the fact that insects are far more efficient than livestock at converting feed into protein; for the same amount of protein, cows require 12 times as much feed as crickets.
The livelihood argument: Harvesting insects is far less labor-intensive and can be done without the need for large tracts of land (meaning that people can more easily grow their own food).
The key point here is that insects are sustainable. Raising livestock isn't.
But let's say you're (quite understandably) still not sold on the whole "eating bugs" thing. After all ... they're bugs. That doesn't sound too appetizing.
What if bugs looked (and tasted) like food you eat already? That's what the women of Six Foods are trying to find out.
Earlier this week, I was sent a video about three women who were trying to turn the food industry on its head with a new product called Chirps.
Chirps are, well, they're cricket chips. With the help of chef Geoff Lukas, they wound up with something that actually looks pretty delicious.
One problem with suggesting people eat insects is that people tend to picture whole bugs.
The women of Six Foods address this in a blog post, writing, "If you can't seem to get past the 'ick' factor of eating insects, we urge you to stop envisioning the whole bodied insect — eyes, legs, and all. Instead, think of insects as a simple, versatile ingredient."
You might already be eating insects without even knowing it. Before recoiling in horror, check this out: