Entomophagy -- the practice of eating insects -- is already common in many parts of the world, but as scientists look to bugs as a serious alternate food source, one businessman sees himself as a pioneer.
Li Jinsui is the owner of Yunnan Insect Biotechnologies, a company that since 2009 has been offering insects and insect parts for human and animal consumption. Some of the bugs in his catalog include bamboo worms (a type of caterpillar) and maggots. When it comes to the latter, Li’s company leads the way in production, currently delivering 150 kg a day, with a goal of bringing that number up to 10 tons in the next few years. It’s time, he says: “We have a protein shortage in [China]. We have to import fish from Chile or Peru. As humans, we don’t have enough information yet on the potential of insects as a source of nutrition.”
Subscribe for counterintuitive, surprising, and impactful stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday
What’s the Big Idea?
Eating insects — the technical term is entomophagy — isn’t unusual in many developing nations, but experts from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization are looking to insects as a possible protein substitute for humans around the world and as a more affordable choice for animal feed. In China’s plains area, farmers are increasingly turning to insect farming, and companies like Li’s are poised to become global suppliers…if they’re able to educate the squeamish. Bamboo worms are one thing, but, as Li says, “seeing [maggots] on your plate triggers a psychological reluctance that is hard to overcome.”