The consumption of insects in the human diet is not a mystery. Many cultures have taken them as part of their regular diet for years. In countries like Mexico or Thailand, it is the common sea. However, it is extremely shocking to imagine your aunt Amparo eating some crickets on Christmas Eve, just before dessert. Could this be a future scenario in our family meals? It’s as beautiful as it is disgusting fantasize about it, recently the house cricket (bought domesticus) It has just been approved as a food in the European Union.
Specifically, this insect exploit took place in February 2022, but it is not the first insect that we can already eat on European lands. The previous year, two other insect species had been registered, the mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) was the first of these in May 2021, and the migratory locust (migratory locust) followed in November of the same year.
All this did not happen overnight on our plates, since for many years we have been warning about the arrival of insects in our supermarkets. In 2018, Carrefour had already embarked on the adventure of marketing the first insects in Spain. However, legal obstacles they weren’t turkey slimeand sovereignly slowed down its full authorization process in the European Union.
Viscous, but also tasty?
What does all this mean for the average consumer? Will we see grasshoppers sharing a shelf with bologna and hash? It is not so simple, because there is still a significant gap in the field of gastronomy. This is one of the main obstacles to the installation of insects in Spanish culture: the disgust they give us. Although the legal hurdles seem to have been overcome, the truth is that it is not so easy to imagine a supermarket plagued by ready-to-eat insects.
It may seem like a small thing, but the cultural barrier in what we eat is very hard to break. Despite this, many companies have opted for innovation as a bulwark to overcome the obstacles posed by the world of insects, betting on new products based on cricket and worm flour.
Snacks, protein powders and energy bars were the preferred formats for containing insects in their formulation. Other foods affected by insect wand These are cookies, pasta and even bread. Anything that can use flour it’s good. The explanation lies in the target audience: people who love fitness and sports. Generally, this audience is more open to consuming innovative products with unusual ingredients, so it’s no surprise that insects have caught the attention of companies dedicated to the health field.
The nutritional and environmental potential of insects
Another explanation for the prevalence of insects in the sports world is their nutritional value: they are postulated as “the protein of the future”. It’s true it’s been said older than the sun, but the future must come one day. Whether present or future, the truth is that the nutritional content of insects is always interesting. About, between 50 and 70% of its nutritional composition are proteins, depending on the species. Therefore, it is related to insects as a possible substitute for meat.
Additionally, insects also have huge environmental benefits over meat farming, as water, feed and land costs are greatly reduced. We see, inevitably, that producing insects is immensely cheaper than obtaining the same amount of meat due to its lower resource consumption. It adds up extra durability that many experts have been promoting for years in favor of insect farming. Because yes, it is a reality.
Whether we like it more or less, global meat production is currently unsustainable on a global scale. The quantities of water, animal feed and other resources such as soil are limited in our environment and are heavily exploited. On the contrary, breeding insects for human consumption requires virtually no resources. It could become a virtually inexhaustible food source in the future.
The disadvantages of eating insects
But all is not so pretty in the world of insects, because some problems remain sow doubt with the authorities from a food safety perspective. Fortunately, these uncertainties have been resolved over time for insect species already approved and commented on previously, as confirmed by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) in its 2021 report giving the green light to the well-known mealworm. Tenebrio molitor. It was this scientific advice that gave rise to its legal approval in Europe, at the same time as it put on the table the key aspects that must be monitored.
And what are these health issues? These are mainly allergies that could be caused by eating insects. In fact, insects have been seen to cause adverse effects in people who have allergies to shellfish or dust mites, leading to a sort of cross-reactivity. This obstacle could be solved with precautionary food labeling, as is the case for the rest of the usual allergens for sensitive people.
The million dollar question is whether insects can really be a viable substitute for meat. To make matters worse, there are still hot embers regarding the debate over meat and macro farms in Spain. At the moment, it seems complicated. Let us remember, however, that legumes are: a group of plant foods that also provide proteins of great nutritional value and whose promotion in the diet only translates into benefits for our health. Nutrition, sustainability, animal welfare and economy These are the fundamental pillars that guide this food question. Many factors come into play and it is not easy to come to a conclusion that satisfies everyone. For now, we are content to watch in amazement as crickets and worms sneak into our supermarkets. It will be nice to see. Or maybe not.