Even now, world health authorities are discussing ways to harvest insects on a massive scale, to help combat future food shortages as world populations continue to grow. Insect harvesting isn’t for everyone, though. But it is worth taking a look at.
Edible House Flies
Rather than attempting to catch insects in the wild, it is best to breed them at home, as attempts to catch them in the wild can cost a lot of precious time and energy, and issue in disappointing results. Fortunately, technological developments are currently underway which allow entomophagists to breed insects in the comfort of their own home.
This breeder in particular promises that “one gram of black soldier fly eggs can yield 2.4 kg of protein over a 432-hour period.” This is part of what makes insects so valuable a food source.
In addition to acquiring many of the same nutrients one does when consuming more conventional meats, insects provide us with a superior feed to conversion ratio. That is, it is much cheaper to feed insects and provide them with an environment in which they are able to flourish than it is cows or pigs.
Edible Maggots – Nutritional Content Of A Maggot
In addition to containing various amounts of fatty acids, amino acids, protein, fat and energy content, the larvae of the common housefly( Musca domestica), more commonly known by the unflattering moniker “maggot”, sports a whopping 2,010 mg of calcium per 100g of insect dry matter.
Since the RDA (Recommended daily allowance) for the average adult is only 1,000 mg of calcium, this means that a serving of 100g provides over twice as much as the average adult needs to be healthy!
The same amount of insect dry matter also provides around 1,320 mg of phosphorus. Teenagers require around 1,200 mg of phosphorus, and the average adult requires around 700 mg, so either way, consuming 100g of common housefly larvae dry matter should eliminate any worries one might have about deficiencies in these vitamins(unless of course you have some sort of medical condition which requires one to take a great deal more than this).
Housefly larvae also contains an astonishingly high amount of iron. At 60g per 100g of insect dry matter, such a serving far exceeds the RDA of the demographic most in it of it: pregnant women. The Linus Pauling Institute recommends 27 mg of iron for pregnant women a day. Male teenagers require 11g, and adults, 8 mg. Female teenagers typically need 15 mg a day and adults, 18g.
At 24 mg of zinc, housefly larvae provide more than the daily required amount for all demographics. Your typical teenager-to-adult needs between 8 and 11 mg a day, with an RDA slightly higher for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Furthermore, the insect contains 6 mg of manganese, more than the daily required amount of around 2 mg for your typical teenage-to-adult demographic.
Amino acids (mg/100g of protein
Fatty acid composition [% fatty acids] of edible insects
Protein, fat and energy content – Nutritional composition [%] and energy content [kcal/100 g] of edible insects (based on dry matter)
|Phe + Tyr(i)||127 mg|
|Glutamic Acid(i)||89 mg|
|C16:1 n7(k)||26 mg|
|C18:1 n9(k)||22 mg|
|C18:2 n6(k)||16 mg|
All nutrition information retrieved from: Hwangbo, J., Hong, E. C., Jang, A., Kang, H. K. et al., Utilization of house fly-maggots, a feed supplement in the production of broiler chickens. J. Environ. Biol. 2009, 30, 609-614.All RDA material obtained from the Linus Pauling Institute.
Of course, proper preparation of insects is essential, as consumption of any insect is associated with all of the same potential hazards as the consumption of any meat, such as parasites, microbes, contaminants, and so on.
It is beyond the scope of this article to provide such instructions, as unfortunately, such research is preciously scarce on the subject, and it is precisely the aim of writing on this subject to spur more research into ideal methods of breeding, preparation and consumption. Even with little data available for people interested in harvesting insects, manufactures are producing insect farms for flies and maggots to be raised right at home.
In light of the nutritional potential insects have for the developing world and combating food shortages, my hope in writing about the nutritional content of insects is to help erode cultural taboos toward insects, with the result being that more research is undertaken to determine ways to cultivate insects for breeding, preparation and consumption.
Editors note: As it relates to survival, relying on unusual strategies like using insects for food may become necessary once your typical survival food runs out – after all, one can only make and store so much hardtack and pemmican before you run out of storage space (or patience).
Check out Daniel Caulder’s ebook on the nutritional content of insects, The Dietitian’s Guide to Eating Bugs.