Soon, your burgers could be made from crushed insects. And this very fact alone could save our bacon.
By Nicole Buckler
Several issues ago, Old Moore’s Almanac made the prediction that entomologists would be highly-sought-after. This was a sound prediction. Insect farmers are now needed to run the rising number of insect farms that have sprung into life. Especially in Asia, where insect consumption isn’t a new idea: People have been making insects into tasty snacks for a long time.
A proposed insect farm, called “BuzzBuilding Taipei” will make the Taiwanese capital self-sufficient in protein as soon as production starts. And Taipei is a good place to start. The Taiwanese are very experimental and unsqueamish when it comes to protein, making their cuisine some of the best and most unusual in the world. Anyone who has ever walked through a regional Taiwanese nightmarket has learned this the up-close-and-personal way. From scorpions to caterpillars, there are some hugely interesting dishes on offer.
Crickets are the most common insect delicacy in this region. They are stir-fried with chili pepper and garlic, and served with rice.
So will the mass-production of bug snacks, sourced from urban, purpose-built farms take off? Yes. Half of the world population already eats a variety of flying, crawling, and biting bugs. For example, in Thailand, market traders hawk deep-fried crickets, along with silkworms, grasshoppers, and water bugs. And anyone who has been to Japan knows that many shops sell aquatic insect larvae alongside chicken and fish.
In South America, roasted ants are a favourite substitute for popcorn. In Mexico, insect tacos are a thing. But here in the West, we are a bit more resistant when it comes to all things squishable with our shoe. But, we need to man up, and fast.
There are two aspects to the bug farming of the future in the West. One is to cultivate bugs for us to eat. And the other is to convince us to eat them. But we are getting there. The market for insects as food has been increasing slowly in this part of the world. As we get used to the idea, a burger made of bug protein becomes more relevant as climate apocalypse descends upon us.
According to Professor Arnold van Huis from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, producing a kilogram of meat from a cow requires 13kg of vegetable matter as feed. Yet 1kg of meat from a cricket, locust or beetle needs just 1.5 to 2kg of fodder, and produces a fraction of the CO2 emissions. He says, “The good news is that, not only do insects require less food to farm, you also don’t have to eat as much to survive, as they are an extremely good source of protein and vitamins.”
You may need to ease yourself into the idea of eating buggie bites. But if everyone in Europe wants to keep eating animal protein, this may be the only choice. Insect farming NEEDS to come to a field near you, and soon. So get your knife and fork on, it’s time to open your mind, and your mouth.
How An insect Farm Will Look
To illustrate what an urban insect production might look like, Swedish architectural company Belatchew Labs is now promoting their “BuzzBuilding” design across the world. The facility will be built specifically for the cultivation of crickets.
It will integrate the whole insect production flow, from the egg to the ready-to-eat insect. Additionally, BuzzBuilding is a safe haven for endangered wild bees. This will ensure that endangered species of bees will prosper, but will also turn the city centre into a blooming and fertile place.
The above pictures are how Belatchew Arkitekter suggest the insect farm should be built. They have chosen a space on the roundabout Ren-Ai Circle in Taipei. This roundabout is a large green area in the Da’an District, a suburb known for its universities and successful businesses. Situating insect farms at such unused places in the city means the production of food can stay where the end consumer lives, without causing too much disruption to the lives of urbanites.
Once built, the insect farm will have 10,350 m² of farmable surface. The design of the building aims to make the production of food public. This is in contrast to the usually hidden world of meat production. The main structure will be housed in a steel exoskeleton, inspired by the structure of insects. On the ground floor there will be a restaurant where insects are prepared and sold. Yes, all the workers can leave their offices and grab bug burgers to take the edge off their hunger.
There are approximately 1900 edible species of insects, so future bug farmers have a lot of decisions to make! All we have to do is eat the bugs. Bon appétit!