As the global mindset shifts in a more eco-friendly direction, it’s becoming difficult for meat eaters to ignore the negative impact raising livestock has on our environment. Take Madagascar for instance. Almost 80 percent of Madagascar’s forests have been destroyed since the 1950s, and each year, farmers clear more trees away to make room for livestock.
Brian Fisher, an ant specialist at the California Academy of Sciences who did fieldwork in Madagascar realized that soon, the insects he studies won’t have forests to live in if trees continued to be cut down. Food security in this area is already precarious, and local communities turn to hunting lemurs and other endangered animals to add protein to their already sparse diets.
Fisher recognized that the only way to save the forests and support the dwindling biodiversity in Madagascar was to make sure that the surrounding communities achieved food security. So what is the alternative to meat protein that Fisher could provide these communities with? Insects.
With the help of Sylvain Hugel, one of the world’s experts on crickets of the Indian Ocean Islands, Fisher launched a cricket farm that produces several pounds of protein-packed, fiber-rich powder each day. Hugel told Time that he was initially reluctant to even try crickets, despite knowing the nutritional benefits, but once he worked up the courage to pop a roasted, salted cricket into his mouth, he found it quite tasty.
Valala Farms, named after the local word for cricket, is already supplying their protein powder to international aid agency Catholic Relief Services for famine relief projects, school lunch programs, and tuberculosis treatment centers.
The consumption of insects as an alternative source of protein can be a significant and sustainable solution to world hunger. Pound for pound, insect farming requires less land, water, and feed than traditional livestock. It also produces far less greenhouse gas emissions and the waste that insects do produce is an excellent natural fertilizer.
For Western and European palates, eating insects may not sound so appealing. But two billion people, mostly in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, already incorporate insects in their diet, and the trend is starting to catch on elsewhere. Canada’s nationwide grocery chain Loblaws has had locally-produced cricket powder on their shelves since 2018, and just this January, the European Union food safety agency proclaimed yellow mealworms safe for human consumption.
Soon, insects may be making a regular appearance on our tables, and if we let ourselves overcome the culture shock of having bugs on our plates, we just might find ourselves asking for seconds.