Hunger, United Nations Says, Could Be Fought With More Edible Insects

By Matthew Klickstein , May 13, 2013 11:17 AM EDT

The United Nations has determined a new way to fight such global blights as pollution, malnutrition and global hunger: the proliferation of edible insects.

On Monday, May 13, the Food and Agriculture Organization touted such edible insects as grasshoppers and ants as an "underutilized" means of food for both humans and livestock/pets alike.

The Associated Press revealed that the United Nations organization -- which is headquartered in Rome -- released a 200-page report on the subject of edible insects, including such tasty morsels as there already being 2 billion people worldwide who use the buggy foodstuffs to supplement their diets. Edible insects also have a substantial amount of protein, according to the report, which states too that they're similarly high in minerals and have environmental benefits, as well.

The United Nations agency went on to say in its report that insects are "extremely efficient" at converting feed into edible meat.

"On average, they can convert 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of feed into 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of insect mass," Associated Press relayed of the report. "In comparison, cattle require 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of feed to produce a kilo of meat."

Environmental benefits of edible insects include such common sense factors as insects not producing as much greenhouse gas as livestock such as cattle, and their feeding on human/animal waste/slurry.

Most edible insect "farming" currently takes place via small, family-run companies that are niche marketed or through simple insect gathering in forests. The U.N. believes that insect farming could be mechanized in order to be more efficacious, similar in methodology to the insect farming that has long been taking place for the fish bait industry.

"Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly," the U.N. agency said.

In addition to environmental benefits that leave a "low environment footprint," the high-in-protein-and-nutrients (in comparison to meat and fish) are "particularly important as a food supplement for undernourished children."

Other minerals and nutrients that may fortify edible insects include:

  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Fiber

Biologists at various universities, according to the Associated Press, have already determined that edible insects could approximate the same protein per gram quotient of lean red meat, especially: beetles, ants, crickets and grasshoppers. The Edible Insect Program, according to the U.N. agency, is even now looking into the benefits of edible arachnids (eg., scorpions and spiders).

Whether or not there's enough of a market for edible insects is another story. What do you think? Would you eat insects? What about a spider? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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