Buzzing: Insect farming to the rescue
Hello everyone, I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks. Before we get going, a small announcement. As you know, Buzzing is free to read, but it is not free to make. I genuinely believe that raising awareness about the potential of insects as food and feed is important, and for that reason, I would like to keep it free. I would also like to try and recoup some of my costs however, which is why I will occasionally run “Classified Ads”.
I am particularly keen to advertise jobs, events, industry call outs, request for proposals etc. Essentially I would like Buzzing to become a useful notice board for the sector. The section will sit in “In Other News” and will be clearly labelled. If you’re interested in placing an ad, please get in touch; you can do so by replying directly to this newsletter. And if you don’t have an ad but would still like to show your support, you can buy me a coffee or send Buzzing to someone 🙂.
Now, onto business. This week in Buzzing:
Farming insects could safeguard wild insect populations.
In Other News: Which country is the most likely to eat insects?
Test corner: Cricket toppings.
Earlier this week, one of my Google alerts picked up this item from Ugandan TV channel NTV. The news is that nsenene (Ruspolia differens), the prized Ugandan long-horn grasshopper, is late. Grasshoppers usually start swarming in early November, a phenomenon that lasts until the end of December. But this year, there are no grasshoppers.
Ugandans have enjoyed this natural bounty for centuries: the insect is a real delicacy and widely consumed. But with growing population and popularity, the rates of harvesting have increased. A small but lucrative industry has sprung up to trap the insects using powerful lights, smoke and metal sheets, catching them in their millions. One kilogram of grasshoppers costs more than a kilogram of beef.
Entomologists have warned for the last few years that this level of harvesting isn’t sustainable. Combined with climate change and habitat destruction, which disrupt the grasshoppers’ breeding grounds on the shores of Lake Victoria, population numbers have dropped substantially.
This is what led entomologists at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Kenya and Makerere University in Uganda to explore ways to farm nsenene. This would not only protect wild populations, it would also make grasshoppers available year-round. Since insects are such nutritious foods, it seems like a no-brainer.
Farming would also guarantee better hygiene in handling, storing and processing. Dr Chrysantus Tanga at ICIPE ran a study in 2019 in which he sampled grasshoppers from market stalls and found quite a cocktail of bacteria, fungi and mould. These can be minimised by deep-frying but the point remains that farmed insects would offer a more sustainable and safer option.
Establishing a successful farming protocol, especially one that would work for small and medium entrepreneurs and therefore create the employment developing countries need so badly, is hard and takes time. But it won’t come soon enough for Uganga’s long-horn grasshoppers.
In Other News
Last week, pollster YouGov published a survey on people’s willingness to eat insects in various countries. Some findings were predictable - Mexico at the top (they have a very vibrant edible insect scene), Italy at the bottom (it has taken a very strict stance on edible insects, which may reflect people’s attitude), others less so. I didn’t think the French were more adventurous eaters than Hong Kongers, especially when it came to insects. Ça alors!
BetaBugs have launched a new publication about insect farming called Beta Buzz.
It’s official: from 5 December, Locusta migratoria (locusts) will be allowed for sale in frozen, dried and powder forms across the EU. It’s the second insect after yellow mealworms earlier this year. (IPIFF)
Cities should embrace BSF to manage organic waste. Who will be the first to take this brave step? (World Economic Forum)
USAID is gathering information on insect farming.
If in doubt, cover it in chocolate. It worked for this writer, anyway. (GreenBiz)
Test Corner: Cricket topping
I have recently experimented with using crickets as toppings to jazz up my lunches. I often have leftovers from the night before, but when there aren’t any, it’s a quick salad, something on toast or a soup from the freezer.
Since the kids aren’t particularly keen on whole crickets, it’s a good time for me to have them, so I recently added pan-fried crickets to my avocado on toast (toasted sourdough, olive oil, avocado and plenty of fresh lemon juice) and to my roast butternut squash soup (laced with the most delicious garlic chili oil).
In both cases, I lightly toasted them in a frying pan with a little rapeseed oil and salt (note that crickets burn very easily so this literally only takes 2-3 min). For the avocado, I added half a teaspoon of paprika (for a handful of crickets) and for the butternut squash topping, I went for half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and half a teaspoon of ground coriander.
I liked the avocado combo best. The texture and flavours worked really well together. There was something about the toasted crickets being added to a cold dish that I really liked. Which made me think that the next dish I might experiment with is a cricket Cesar salad. I’ll report back!