Grub's up: the benefits of edible bugs

Dried cricket anyone? [Photo: Getty]
Dried cricket anyone? [Photo: Getty]

We may not have had the vomit-inducing bug eating challenge on ‘I’m a Celebrity’ just yet, but we know it’s coming.

And if you fancy recreating your own bushtucker trial at home, now you can as Sainsbury’s has started selling edible insects.

The smoky barbeque-flavour roasted crickets have gone on sale in 250 UK Sainsbury’s stores, costing £1.50 a packet.

The insects by specialist food company, Eat Grub, are said to have a “rich smoky flavour” and “crunchy texture” and can be eaten as a snack or used to garnish dishes.

While the eating of bugs has only really been brought to our attention thanks to the plethora of celebrities who have snacked on them in the Australian jungle, the consumption of insects has been taking place for thousands of years.

Recent stats suggest that around 2 billion people regularly eat insects as part of their diet. And that figure could increase as according to a Sainsbury’s study some 40 per cent of people say they would be open to eating insects and grubs.

Which is good news considering around 1,900 species are edible.

The most commonly eaten bugs are beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps and ants.

So aside from recreating an episode of ‘I’m a Celebrity’ are there any other reasons people are giving insects a try?

They’re nutritious

Swapping your cashews for crickets might not seem that tempting but insects actually have a high fat, vitamin, fibre and mineral content. And they’re a great source of protein.

“They contain all nine essential amino acids and include important minerals like iron and calcium…not to mention, they can be up to 69% protein depending on how they are prepared,” the Eat Grub site reads.

Gram for gram, dried crickets contain more protein than beef, chicken and pork – with 100g containing 68g of protein, in comparison to just 31g of protein in beef.

“Insect snacks should no longer be seen as a gimmick or something for a dare, and it’s clear that consumers are increasingly keen to explore this new sustainable protein source,” Rachel Eyre, head of future brands at Sainsbury’s adds.

Sainsbury’s have entered the edible bug market [Photo: Sainsbury’s/Eat Grub]
Sainsbury’s have entered the edible bug market [Photo: Sainsbury’s/Eat Grub]

They’re green

Could the consumption of bugs help to change the world? Well, they could certainly help.

According to Sainsbury’s, bugs emit considerably lower levels of greenhouse gases than most livestock and are much more efficient in terms of the resources needed to farm them – crickets, for example, need 12 times less feed than cattle.

“As the population increases, we urgently need to look at alternative protein sources to make the most of land available for food production. Insects are incredibly sustainable and can help to reduce our carbon footprint,” Duncan Williamson, a global food system expert and food policy manager at WWF UK, says.

They’re tasty

While we can’t confirm personally having never chowed down on a cricket, two billion people can’t be wrong surely?

“We’re on a mission to show the West that as well as having very strong sustainability and environmental credentials, they are also seriously tasty and shouldn’t be overlooked as a great snack or recipe ingredient,” says Eat Grub co-founder Shami Radia.

“Insects can produce the same amount of protein for a fraction of the land, water and feed used to rear traditional livestock. What’s more, insects are estimated to release 80% less methane than cows.”

They have a celebrity following

Angelina Jolie and Justin Timberlake are down with the bugs. “You start with crickets and a beer,” Angelina Jolie told Vanity Fair last year.

Justin Timberlake has also hopped (geddit?) on board serving “ants coated in black garlic and rose oil and grasshoppers” at his latest album launch.

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