Most Brits would be shocked if they were offered creepy crawlies on a plate, even though 80% of the world’s nations consume insects regularly. But, with the world’s population continuing to grow exponentially, and predicted to total nine billion by 2050, eating insects is increasingly recognised as a way to fight world hunger and encourage sustainable living.
Recognising the benefits of eating insects, which is officially called entomophagy, Rentokil began an initiative called ‘Pestaurant’ in 2013. The event encouraged members of the public to reconsider insects commonly thought of as pests, as a meal instead. There are 1,900 different types of edible insects on earth, many with a high nutritional value. We took the Pestaurant concept to a school in London recently, treating Year 9 students to a ‘Pestaurant Lunch Club’, where they were served a three-course insect-based meal by gourmet chef, Andy Holcroft. Many of the students were surprised at the delicious taste of the bug-based dishes they tried; mealworms, for example, which were a feature of the cous cous canapés, and bug brittle that was sprinkled on top of chocolate-cricket crepes, were described as having a nutty flavour. This helped students at the Pestaurant Lunch Club understand why insects are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world.
Rentokil has taken Pestaurant to schools up and down the UK, giving students insight as to why entomophagy is so critical to environmental sustainability. But why is it so important that this topic forms part of their education? Well, livestock takes up almost 45% of the world’s land mass, and is responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. In fact, cattle around the globe produce more methane than cars, planes and all other forms of transport combined. What’s more: insects are naturally sustainable. Mealworms, for example, survive on wheat chaff, rather than guzzling grain, like some of our favourite meat sources. Insects are a viable, alternative source of protein to meat – and a food of the future that we expect to become increasingly popular. Even the popular Mexican food chain Wahaca has been selling cheesy crickets as a starter option for its diners.
We all have a role to play when it comes to educating the younger generations about how they can care for the planet and reduce their footprint. Insects such as ants and locusts, which are usually considered a ‘pest’, already provide a rich and sustainable form of protein to over two billion of the world’s population. By encouraging students to try insects and think about incorporating them into their diet, we can remind them of the ways they can reduce their impact on the planet. In food and nutrition classes, teaching them about food provenance, sustainability and entomophagy encourages them to think about the health benefits of alternative diets. The addition of insects into a recipe can make a meal higher in protein, lower in fat and packed full of B vitamins, zinc and other essential minerals.