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UBC Land and Food Systems researcher Yasmin Akhtar can rattle off the nutritional benefits of insects and then whip them into dishes ranging from chocolate cricket bark to lentil soup. Cattle need 12 times as much feed as crickets to produce the same amount of protein.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Yasmin Akhtar is a researcher and a good cook. That combination serves her well when promoting the joy of eating insects, or entomophagy.

A research associate at the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Land and Food Systems, she can rattle off the nutritional benefits of insects and then whip them into dishes ranging from chocolate cricket bark to lentil soup.

Advocates of bug cuisine cite health, environmental and social benefits. Many insects are rich in protein and high in calcium, iron and zinc. Cold-blooded insects are efficient at converting feed into protein; crickets need 12 times less feed than cattle, four times less feed than sheep and half as much as pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. Gathering and rearing insects is a low-cost, low-tech venture that researchers say could contribute to food security.

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And in much of the world, insects are already on the menu. The FAO estimates insects form part of the traditional diets of at least two billion people and that more than 1,900 species have been used as food. Globally, the most commonly consumed insects are beetles, followed by caterpillars and then by bees, wasps and ants.

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