Mealworms

Yum! Mealworms ready to eat. PICTURE: Pengo (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0).

At least two billion people around the world already eat insects, according to an estimate from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. But it's only in recent years that modern Westen cultures have starting putting aside the "yuck factor" and grappled with the idea of bugs as food (a concept formally known as entomophagy). Commonly cited as one answer to the world's burgeoning population (estimated to reach at least nine billion by 2050) and, hence, increasing demand for food, insects are being seen as a more environmentally sustainable food source than larger livestock like, say, cattle. Not only that, they're also cited as a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. At present, most edible insects - and, of the more than 1,900 species already consumed, the most commonly eaten include beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets - are harvested in the wild but the concept of mass scale insect farming is growing. In Africa, for example, a joint Dutch-Kenyan-Ugandan initiative called the Flying Food project has reportedly been working to encourage 1,000 people living around Lake Victoria to become cricket farmers or consumers. In Western nations, meanwhile, food producers like Finland's Fazer Bakery are using insects (in this case, dried crickets) in foods they produce (in this case, bread) while outlets like Australia's Edible Bug Shop which sell various pre-packaged products containing insects direct to the public have also begun to appear. Whether insects end up gaining widespread acceptance as a key food source in the Western world remain to be seen but, in the meantime, there's no doubt that a growing number of people see them as key way of addressing the world's ever growing demands for food. So, cricket stirfry anyone?