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EDITORIAL: Getting used to the idea

Probably the last time anybody out there ate a bug it was the result of a double dog dare. But as it turns out, that bug is better for you than, oh, say, a Tide pod or something.

All joking and yuck factor aside, insects of certain kinds could well start to become a part of our daily diets. They already are in some parts of the world, and in fact are making a showing in Canada.

Loblaw Companies Ltd. are adding a new President’s Choice product in their stores called cricket powder, and it’s not just a clever name for something else, it is as it sounds. This is a flour made of crickets that is high in protein and other nutrients.

For those who are religious about checking their weekly flyers, the product was advertised the other week in the Superstore flyers and is indeed already available in the health food section of the New Glasgow store.

This might seem like an oddity, but perhaps not so much. If John the Baptist could live on locusts and wild honey, as reported in the Gospel, it just goes to show the idea wasn’t exactly invented yesterday.

In the case of the cricket powder – which with its reportedly neutral flavour could be added to a number of recipes to boost nutritional content – the food retailer is sourcing the product from a farm in southern Ontario. So, domestically grown, this keeps sounding more promising. The company producing it explains that production of crickets is more sustainable than the usual domesticated farm animals because of the modest quantities of feed and water needed.

That’s it in nutshell. Other farmed products will be with us for a long time to come, likely indefinitely most of us hope, but scientists have been talking for years about the limits of the earth to feed a growing worldwide population following conventional production models. Certain crops and farm animals require a huge global footprint in the form of land and water required.

It’s not hard to find references to insect consumption in other parts of the world, for example, a kind of grub consumed in southeast Asia that reportedly tastes like bacon; roasted grasshoppers in Mexico; termites eaten in some African countries that offer a minty flavour.

In addition to the possibilities in Canada for alternative production, these food traditions from other areas also represent livelihood potential in developing countries.

A report released in 2013 by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization discusses the estimated 1,900 edible insect species on Earth – many of which are already a regular part of people’s diets elsewhere – and suggest that people give them a try.

Not everyone is convinced that this trend offers the means of fulfilling global food needs in coming years. Anything farmed on a massive scale, some have observed, will still have a significant impact on the environment. But this is just one example of how people have to be open in thinking about food production and what they eat.

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