Eating kosher-grasshopper to feed Pakistan’s poor

Fishel Benkhald

Locust generally known as grasshopper (Acrididae / Orthoptera), can be a good and cheap source of protein for the undernourished 33%(percentage from SDPI 2012 report page 15) poor (58.7 million) Pakistani population challenged with multidimensional poverty. Our 40% children under five years of age are underweight as per UN FAO.

Rising fuel cost, corruption and terrorism are indirectly affecting cost of food, on top of that Pakistan metrological department has already acknowledged that we are headed toward acute water crisis. Shortage of water and electricity increase the overall cost of livestock faming and fishing.

Comparing to cow Locust is 73%+( FAO report 2006 5.1 Feed conversion page 06) more efficient in converting feed into body mass while Locust farming also exceptionally eco-friendly in low greenhouse gases emission. UN FAO fearing the growing world population estimates that by 2025 about 1.8 billion people will be living in countries with absolute water scarcity, am afraid that Pakistan is heading that way in a decade. Chapagain and Hoekstra (2003) estimated that producing 1 Kg of animal protein consumes 5 to 20 times the water it requires to produce plant based protein. Production of 1Kg of chicken protein consumes 2,300 liter of water and 1Kg of beef protein consumes 22,000+ liters.

Drastic situations call for drastic solutions….. well not always or at least in this case of Locust the friendly kosher/halal  grasshopper.

Here the question arises that if Locust protein is so economical to produce than why not it’s happening, you already know the answer that its modern-cultural issue abhorring the pesky creepy critter in our Pakistani society, but which we generation-Y can change by studying experts like Dutch Nobel prize winner entomologist Marcel Dicker and advocates for edible insects Gerda Verburg.

To make it happen we can take the first step and break the social norms and stigmata associated with eating Locust, I have been deep frying and backing them since March 2014, they taste like between lean-chicken and roasted seed. If fellow Pakistanis join together to eat Locust in public than we can encourage social change to increase Locust protein intake among the underprivileged making it socially acceptable for all. Last but not least if our TV cooking shows could at least prepare one Locust dish with Pakistani touch and appeasing to the eye can help allot.

Different species of Locust contain varying protein, fat, saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Content of cholesterol in them can be tweaked with changing the feed and breeding temperature by controlling exposure to sunlight, which our local entomologists and scientists can know better than me as I am neither an entomologist nor a nutritionist am only an avocational researcher and advocate of it.

Locust are much easier to farm requires less resources and area while yielding up to 80% of feed to produce weight ratio. Poor families currently operating small domestic poultry farms can be trained to farm local Locust.

Lastly I leave you with the second graphical representation to visually show the high protein content in Locust which also comes along with Iron and other micro nutrients and vitamins.

Kindly study and discuss Pakistan food insecurity in respect of water scarcity and growing poverty and population, other countries are doing research and developing techniques today for the challenges of tomorrow.
Netherlands minister of agriculture Gerda Verburg (in blue blouse) puts insects on the menu in her ministry’s cafeteria and Marcel Dicker is standing in front of her.
(Motto of the picture:- Eat what you preach)

Writer can be contacted on Twitter: @Jew_Pakistani


S.D.P.I Sustainable Development Policy Institute report by Arif Naveed Nazim Ali in 2012

Annual biomass production of two acridids (Orthoptera: Acrididae)

as alternative food for poultry by M. Das, A. Ganguly and P. Haldar

F.A.O Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations

F.A.O Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations.

Environmental opportunities for insect rearing for food and feed

Gerda Verburg