4 reasons insects make the most sustainable food source

Shami Radia
Eat Grub HERO

As global awareness of the importance of sustainability and nutrition grows, I strongly believe there’s one food source that’s constantly been overlooked, under-loved and often sneered at insects.

Here at Eat Grub, we’ve made it our mission to champion insects – crickets, grasshoppers, buffalo worms and mealworms – for the delicious, incredibly nutritious and sustainable food they are. And our vision is for this protein-packed superfood to become a normal part of Western diets.

Originally a pop-up restaurant and events company, Eat Grub had a fantastic reaction from press and public alike which encouraged us to start looking into ways to make eating insects accessible to the UK public. We therefore created a range of snacks and energy bars, as well as the raw ingredients to cook with.

It’s been a long, hard few years – and the team has developed an extremely thick skin – but we’re now starting to see the conversation around insects shift from being just a bush-tucker trial to the future of food. While the sector is currently worth £750m, a recent Barclays report predicts this will rise to a whopping £6bn by 2030. And although this food source is still currently seen as culturally unacceptable in the UK, a recent YouGov poll claims that a third of Brits think that regularly tucking into insect-based fare will become commonplace within ten years.

And that’s because people are becoming increasingly aware of the many reasons why we should be embracing insects.

Insects are extremely sustainable to farm, requiring far less land, water and feed than traditional livestock

First, nutritionally speaking, they’re second to no other food: they can be up to 70% complete protein; contain all nine essential amino acids as well as important minerals like iron, calcium and zinc; and have as much essential fatty acids, like Omega 3 and 6, as oily fish.

Second, insects are extremely sustainable to farm, requiring far less land, water and feed than traditional livestock – and even some plant proteins. The data is staggering: for example, livestock takes up nearly 80% of agricultural land globally – a whopping 30% of the earth’s land mass – but produces less than 20% of the world’s supply of calories. Insects offer a far more efficient solution as they can be farmed vertically in virtually any climate or environment.

Third, insects release a fraction of the greenhouse gases compared to other animal proteins. Most people aren’t aware that traditional livestock farming produces more greenhouse gas emissions worldwide (18%) than all forms of transportation put together (13%).

Fourth, insects create the perfect no-waste circular economy: they can thrive on biowaste which is converted into high-quality protein; and their poop is rich in minerals and can be used as fertiliser, producing feed to be fed back to the insects.

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Our approach to sourcing protein clearly needs to change if we’re to sustainably feed the nine billion of us who’ll be inhabiting the planet by 2050. While plant protein goes some way towards addressing the issue (although vast quantities of land and water will still be needed to grow the necessary amount), it makes sense that insects, with their environmental benefits and complete nutritional profile, become an integral part of the solution.

Equally as important, insects can be delicious. Enjoyed throughout the world by two billion people, there’s a common misconception that they’re eaten as a ‘famine food’. This is simply untrue as, in some cultures, insects are often eaten as a delicacy, fetching a higher price than some meats that we, in the West, consider a luxury.

So, what’s stopping us? It’s essentially a marketing challenge to change consumer behaviour. It’s a tough one, but we’ve seen many examples of foods which were once seen as disgusting becoming accepted and loved. Take sushi, for example: shunned 20 years ago, it’s now found next to the sandwiches in most supermarkets.

Our aim is to make the Eat Grub offer accessible to the public: giving consumers a choice on how they integrate insects into their diet and, by providing exciting and appetising recipes, making it easy for people to start cooking with them at home – chocolate cherry cricket brownies anyone?

There’s already been huge progress made by Eat Grub and other companies in the sector. Our products can now be found in major supermarkets across Europe, including Lidl and Sainsbury’s. We’re supplying ingredients to more and more restaurants, and pubs up and down the country are offering our Crunchy Roasted Crickets as a more sustainable alternative to pork scratchings.

People are starting to join this tiny revolution; we just need a few more to hop on board!