ADAM’S AN­I­MALS

Are in­sects the food of the fu­ture in the UK? Farmer and Coun­try­file pre­sen­ter Adam Hen­son heads to an en­ter­pris­ing farm in the Cum­brian coun­try­side to find out

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents - Ask Adam: What topic would you like to know more about? Email your sug­ges­tions to ed­i­tor@coun­try­file.com

Cricket falafel, any­one? Meal­worm cake? In­sects may well be the food of the fu­ture.

F

ood lovers, be warned: now is not the time to be squeamish, be­cause meals made from in­sects are com­ing to a plate near you.

It’s been well doc­u­mented that the world’s pop­u­la­tion will hit nine bil­lion by the year 2050. Which means a vast num­ber of ex­tra mouths to feed, a mas­sive in­crease in the de­mand for meat, and enor­mous pres­sure on our ex­ist­ing land and food re­sources. So the search is on to find new types of pro­tein to feed us and our an­i­mals. That’s where the farm­ing of in­sects for food could pro­vide the an­swer. Soon, Sun­day lunch might be crick­ets, grasshop­pers, cater­pil­lars or ter­mites.

It’s an idea that’s been con­sid­ered by ex­perts for some time. Four years ago the new Life Sci­ences build­ing at Bris­tol Univer­sity of­fi­cially opened, and the great broad­caster and nat­u­ral­ist Sir David At­ten­bor­ough was the guest of hon­our. On his tour, he saw labs for study­ing ant and bee be­hav­iour, an acous­tic cham­ber for bat re­search and an eco-friendly ver­ti­cal gar­den. But for many of the staff and stu­dents that day, the high­light was see­ing Sir David bite into the food of the fu­ture; a cookie made of meal­worms. Af­ter­wards, he de­clared that it was “de­li­cious” and when asked if peo­ple in the UK would re­ally get a taste for bugs and worms, his re­ply was sim­ple: “We might have to if we want to eat.”

THE CRUNCH POINT

As Sir David knows from his trav­els around the globe, din­ing on in­sects is noth­ing out of the or­di­nary for bil­lions of peo­ple in places such as Ghana, Thai­land and Mex­ico. Now it’s a step closer to be­com­ing re­al­ity here.

I got a taste for this po­ten­tial change in UK agri­cul­ture when I vis­ited Thringill Farm near Ap­pleby, home to an en­ter­pris­ing for­mer Govern­ment sci­en­tist called Howard Bell. In many ways, it was a typ­i­cal West­mor­land hill farm, with a tra­di­tional grey stone farm­house and a herd of 500 graz­ing ewes. But in­side one of Howard’s sheds was a type of agri­cul­ture I’d never seen be­fore.

In 2016 he set up Bri­tain’s first edi­ble-cricket farm and, in a unit the size of a con­ser­va­tory, he showed me where more than a mil­lion of the lit­tle crit­ters were be­ing bred and fed. They were jump­ing about in rolls of card­board in­side large plas­tic crates. Howard told me that when the in­sects are big enough, they’re ready for ‘pro­cess­ing’, in which they’re dried to cre­ate a sort of crispy savoury snack, a bit like peanuts in a pub bar. Al­ter­na­tively, the dried crick­ets can be ground into a fine flour that’s used to make in­sect-based bis­cuits and cakes. I was of­fered a plate of crick­ets to try and, although I was qui­etly ap­pre­hen­sive, they didn’t taste too bad. Think of them as a sort of crunchy, nutty pick ’n’ mix.

But it’s not just in­sect farms that are crop­ping up in Bri­tain. An in­sect restau­rant, clev­erly named Grub Kitchen, has opened in St David’s, Pem­brokeshire. Among the dishes on of­fer are cricket falafels, Welsh cakes with cin­na­mon meal­worms and zesty black ant and olive crusted goat’s cheese. The chef, Andy Hol­croft, says he wants to turn the eat­ing of in­sects (known as en­to­mophagy) from a nov­elty to nor­mal­ity. But are we ready to swap our low-cost burger for a lo­cust bur­rito? That’s the crunch ques­tion!

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