Eat more insects; good for you, good for world

ROME (AP) -- The latest weapon in the U.N.'s fight against hunger, global warming and pollution might be flying by you right now.

Edible insects are being promoted as a low-fat, high-protein food for people, pets and livestock. According to the U.N., they come with appetizing side benefits: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and livestock pollution, creating jobs in developing countries and feeding the millions of hungry people in the world.

Some edible insect information in bite-sized form:

WHO EATS INSECTS NOW?

Two billion people do, largely in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Monday as it issued a report exploring edible insect potential.

Some insects may already be in your food (and this is no fly-in-my-soup joke). Demand for natural food coloring as opposed to artificial dyes is increasing, the agency's experts say. A red coloring produced from the cochineal, a scaled insect often exported from Peru, already puts the hue in a trendy Italian aperitif and an internationally popular brand of strawberry yogurt. Many pharmaceutical companies also use colorings from insects in their pills.

WHICH TO CHOOSE?

Beetles and caterpillars are the most common meals among the more than 1,900 edible insect species that people eat. Other popular insect foods are bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets. Less popular are termites and flies, according to U.N. data.

ECO-FRIENDLY

Insects on average can convert 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of feed into 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of edible meat. In comparison, cattle require 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of feed to produce a kilogram of meat. Most insects raised for food are likely to produce fewer environmentally harmful greenhouse gases than livestock, the U.N. agency says.

DON'T SWAT THE INCOME

Edible insects are a money-maker. In Africa, four big water bottles filled with grasshoppers can fetch a gatherer 15 euros ($20). Some caterpillars in southern Africa and weaver ant eggs in Southeast Asia are considered delicacies and command high prices.


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