Not enough beef? 'Let them eat insects'

With around 70 per cent of the world's agricultural land now being used for meat production, a Dutch insect specialist has suggested a novel way of catering to the world's growing population – by eating insects instead of mammals.

Speaking at the TEDGlobal 2010 conference in Oxford, entomologist Marcel Dicke claimed that insects are an ecologically sound – and tasty – alternative to meat.

Dicke, a professor at the Netherlands' Wageningen University, said that while 10kg of feed generates just 1kg of beef, 3kg of pork or 5kg of chicken, the same amount could sustain 9kg of locusts.

Insects also produce substantially less waste than mammals and have nutritional benefits, being rich in protein, essential amino acids, iron and vitamins, he said.

While many might be disgusted by the idea of eating insects, according to Dicke the average person eats up to 500g of the creatures each year, through processed vegetable-based products and foods dyed with insect derivatives. Around 1,400 different species of insect are eaten around the world.