The idea of eating bugs for dinner might disgust you but did you know that 99.9% of people regularly eat insects in some form?
For example, if you have ever eaten any pink sweets, you are likely to be eating cochineal bugs, which produce a deep pink and purple colouring, also called E120 or carmine. An estimated 80% of the world happily eats insects by choice. Some caterpillars in southern Africa are even seen as luxuries and command high prices.

An ever-popular trend

Insects are a novelty on the UK food scene. They are mainly found as subversive garnishes for salads and cocktails, or on the menus of experimental pop-up restaurants. Farther north, in Copenhagen, the acclaimed Danish restaurant Noma, declared the world’s best restaurant for the past three years by Restaurant magazine, includes ants on the menu. They taste like “seared lemon rind” says chef Rene Redzepi, creator of a famous sweet mayonnaise using bee larvae instead of eggs, and a fermented-grasshopper-and-moth larvae purée that tastes like “a strong fish sauce.”

The food industry could help in “raising the status of insects” by including them in new recipes and adding them to restaurant menus. For instance, some restaurants are focusing on the aesthetic issue, and hope to remove our psychological barrier to insect-eating by transforming the flesh of edible creepy crawlies into anodyne cubes. If you fancy one of these crunchy bites, places in London such as The House of Wolf and Selfridges offer insects-based recipes.

Why should you invite edible insects on your menu?

  • – Nutritionally they are mostly very high in protein (mealworms are around 50%, red-legged locusts are 75% and leafcutter ants around 58%)

  • – Eating more insects could help fight world hunger, according to a UN report

  • – Most insects are likely to produce fewer environmentally harmful greenhouse gases than other livestock. In fact, livestock rearing is responsible for 18 percent of GHG emissions (CO2 equivalent), a higher share than the transport sector.

  • – Insects are also “extremely efficient” in converting feed into edible meat. Crickets, for example, need 12 times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein

  • – According to Ento, honey caterpillars have a delicate nutty flavour similar to pistachio when roasted. And grasshoppers have hints of mushroom and yeast extract – almost like marmite!

Take the plunge and introduce insects on your menu… but as a safety reminder, make sure you have robust pest controls in place!

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