The very first command God gave to humanity was to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Overall, I’d say we’re doing a pretty good job on that “increase the number” since we currently have over 7.3 billion people on the planet. Where we fall short of keeping the command is in the “subdue it” part.
As the ESV Study Bible explains,
Here the idea is that the man and woman are to make the earth’s resources beneficial for themselves, which implies they would investigate and develop the earth’s resources to make them useful for human beings generally. This command provides a foundation for wise scientific and technological development . . .
Innovations in agriculture have helped make it possible to feed more people using fewer resources, especially farm land. But there may be cultural innovation that could help just as significant: Overcoming the aversion Westerners have to eating bugs.
In the West we mainly get our protein from livestock, such as cattle and chicken. Cows taste great but they are extremely resource-intensive: it takes about 18-22 months and two acres of land for each cow, and one pound of steak requires 1,800 gallons of water. That makes it difficult to rely on them as a protein source for a growing population.
In contrast, “minilivestock”, such as crickets, require much fewer resources: Every six weeks, you can harvest 55-65 pounds of cricket meat from a 4 x 8-foot pen, and one pound of cricket protein requires only one gallon of water.
“World population will reach 10 billion near the end of the century,” says Robert Montenegro, “we can’t all be eating chicken, beef, and tofu by then. This is what makes bugs so appealing for the long-term.”
Indeed, it does. In 2013 a UN report claimed that insects could be part of the solution to some of the world’s food security and health problems. More than 1,900 species have reportedly been used as food and insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people.
So why isn’t entomophagy (consumption of insects as food) more popular among Westerners? The main reason, of course, is that cows and chickens taste better than crickets and cockroaches. But changing our own attitudes about eating bugs could help destigmatize the practice and make it easier to promote minilivestock as a preferred food option for ending global hunger.
Craig Benzine and Matt Weber of The Good Stuff, a new web series produced by PBS Digital Studios, show why entomophagy may be the future of food.