People Are Eating Bugs to Fight Climate Change

It’s a Low-Impact Protein Source

Graphics George Yannopoulos

As Earth speeds towards a population of 9 billion, the importance of responsibly using agricultural land, water, and feed grows exponentially—as does the need to mitigate global warming’s damages.

Entomophagy—or put more simply, the act of eating bugs—could be our last resort to help the earth keep its growing flora and fauna.

Insects like crickets emit less greenhouse gas than livestock, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that pigs produce ten to one hundred times more greenhouse gases per kilogram than mealworms.

Insects are fed with biological waste, which uses significantly less water than is needed for livestock and soy, which themselves also demand much more energy to grow. The FAO estimates that producing one kilogram of animal protein requires around five to twenty times more water than generating one kilogram of insect protein. And mealworms are more drought-resistant than cattle, since they require much less water to produce the same amount of protein.

Another benefit to raising bugs for feed is that less land is needed for farms. At Insecto, a bug farm, bugs are kept in vertical chambers that are just as big as a linen closet. These chambers are significantly smaller than a farm that is used to raise livestock.

So obviously there’s environmental benefits to eating bugs, but are they safe to eat?

Many studies show the nutritional benefits of entomophagy, and research shows that eating crickets helps the body absorb protein, and many other vitamins that are vital for the proper function of the human body. But of course, the thought of eating bugs isn’t always the most pleasing thing to think about.

Similar to meat, the benefits from the micronutrients depend on what the farmers feed their livestock.

Insect farmers feed their insects foods that are rich in Omega-3, and foods that are high in iron, fibre, and fatty acids that help the absorption of protein in the body. Because there is no reason to feed insects pesticides, bugs also make for a fashionably organic option.

Edible insect entrepreneur Benoit Daoust has been farming crickets and insects for about four years, and began Insecto in June 2017. After living near a neighbour with a cricket farm, he was inspired to become an entomophagist.

After learning all the benefits of using bugs in meals, Daoust decided he wanted to build his own catering service with them.

Daoust said he wanted to continue to make his everyday life more eco-friendly, and found insect farming was part of that process.

“I did some research and noticed that there’s no bug producers in Quebec, and we import everything,” he said. “Since I’m focusing on being environmentally friendly, there’s no reason why not to produce them here.”

Since then, Daoust has been looking into how to produce edible insects for food and feed locally.

There are many misconceptions around bug eating. Some think it means picking up bugs from the ground and eating them. Daoust wants people to understand that’s not the case. Most people who practice entomophagy eat insects that are intentionally raised with the purpose of being fed to humans. Daoust argues,“you wouldn’t eat actual food from the floor, either.”

After doing much research on this topic, I thought why not try out some bugs myself? I talk a big talk boasting about all the nutritional benefits and how good it is for the environment. As I am trying to make conscious efforts to better myself, health-wise and waste-wise, I decided to eat some crickets.

These aren’t crickets found in the depths of Nôtre-Dame-de-Grace’s Trenholme Park, neither were these crickets imported illegally from the other side of the world. These crickets are from the Insecto farm, and they have been raised and bred to be eaten by humans.

“It smells like soil, really just soil—it smells really good!”
—Fionna Murray

Lucky for me, the crickets had already been cooked and blended to create a powder-like substance, that was then used in a apple and blackberry muffin.

There wasn’t any outstanding taste of dirt­—or cricket—in the muffin. I didn’t expect the muffin to have an extreme flavour, but I was surprised to learn how easy it is to integrate them in everyday baking and cooking methods, without having to see the bug being eaten.

For the rest of the day, I didn’t experience any drastic changes in my body or sense of self, only thoughts of gratitude, in knowing these cricket muffins were made with nutritionally and environmentally sound methods.

If you’re not into the idea of eating bugs, there’s other ways you can incorporate them into your lifestyle, if you’re looking to save the world from environmental disaster.

Concordia student Fionna Murray owns her very own vermicompost, an at-home compost that utilizes worms to reduce her waste—a reminder you don’t need to own a big farm in order to house your own bugs.

For more than five months, Murray has been feeding her worms food scraps to reduce the amount of waste she throws out.

“I didn’t have space for a traditional compost so with the space that I have in my apartment, worms are pretty simple, and small scale” she said. Murray found that owning worms was a fun side project, and she felt good about helping the environment.

Murray stores her vermicompost under her sink in the kitchen, and said there isn’t a stench to owning it.

“It smells like soil, really just soil—it smells really good!” she assures me.

She hopes that in a couple of months, the worms will decompose all of the food she feeds them. Then she’ll be able to use the compost in her own plants around her house. The by-product, which is essentially part soil and part worm feces, is packed with nitrogen and all the good stuff for fertilization.

Although Murray doesn’t eat her worms after they’ve been used, this is another example of how much impact insects have on the planet. Whether you farm your own edible cricket sanctuary, or have an at-home compost bin full of worms, both these methods are practical in slowing down the terrifying effects of climate change.

Who knows, maybe one day we’ll all have to start eating bugs, so why not start small?