Photography by Maisie Cousins
Text by Marceau Fenoÿ
Nearly 2000 species of insects are consumed by two billion earthlings. And that is likely a gross underestimate, according to a recent Dutch study, which states that every year we ingest 500g of insects hidden in fruit, vegetables, juice and other flours, without knowing it. And what if we did add a healthy serving of insects to our meals? No other creature can compare to these critters, when it comes to the future unification of balance and nature.
In the game of animal farming, the grasshopper and the ant win hands down over cattle: respect for the environment, eco- logical impact, health, pollution, economy, jobs… nothing beats these bugs. And about that beef industry, let’s take a closer look. To produce one pound of beef, 10,000 liters of water and ten kilos of vegeta- bles are needed, versus only 5 liters of water and 1 kg of vegetables, which suffice to produce the same quantity of insect-based protein, 100 times faster. Excellent! Notes the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), which is researching ways to feed nine billion human beings in 2050. For the organization, entomophagy (the act of eating insects), is a very legitimate possible solution to the problem of food security, caused by our growing need for proteins. Indeed, these “pests” have officially been anointed foodstuff of the future.
However, while one could go on lauding all the virtues of entomophagy, it is difficult to ignore the threatening impulse to heave at the repugnant idea of swallowing these dirty, disquieting critters, the masters of our childhood and nighttime phobias. We’re beyond the realm of rationalism here, and find ourselves faced with a true abomination, hostility, disgust, and nausea in the first degree. One hears (and understands…) the “Insects?! Never, how awful!” with that appalling tone, which haunts and feeds into the aversion felt by the larger majority of us westerners. However, once the strong emotions have passed, and calm has returned, a sense of delight can actually be found, even whetting our appetites at the thought of it. Firstly, it could appeal to those individuals with a fondness for contradic-tion, who have been around, who are not in the slightest bit afraid… and could very well imagine themselves enjoying a monthly aperitive of Jiminys with a glass of wine. Next, are the taste adventurers, audacious explorers, creators of color… who would happily indulge in a “funghi risotto à la crispy balsamic Molitors.” And lastly, there are the modernists, who will help lift insects to their respectful, culi- nary status on the menus of Michelin starred tables, without diminishing our gastrono- mical traditions founded on meat juices and fish sauces. Be assured, the goal here is to build a sustainable and balanced system that integrates entomophagy with our grandmother’s cooking.
Indeed, the revolution forecast by insect culture, is first and foremost anchored within a global way of thinking about consumption and protein production. Standardization of taste is expected to double the consumption of meat between now and 2050, while the majority of species used for farming already use half of the plan- et’s agricultural land. We must find new solutions which no longer lead to deforestation, or the destruction of biodiversity. For example, insects could replace protein used by the food industry from overfishing, plus those derived from soy, whose environmental impact is catastrophic. Instead of the types of flour typically used today, we could substitute with flour made from insects farmed locally, to further reduce the carbon footprint and pollution across the industry. That is the direction Jean Baptiste de Panafieu has suggested we take, in a book which has become a reference: Insects, will they feed the planet?
If we look at these 2000 strange little critters from a different perspective, as a bunch of “mini-steaks,” able to potentially save the planet, we might find ourselves seated at a dining table where the grasshopper and the ant are just as common a sight as beef burger…