It's Time to Bite the Beetle - and Put Insects on the Menu like the Rest of the World; MOST PARTS OF THE GLOBE ALREADY DINE ON LOCUSTS

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Byline: CIARAN JONES

YOU would rather hear the crunch of a creepy-crawly underfoot than in your mouth - but eating insects could be the future, according to researchers.

Visitors to the Royal Entomological Society's annual conference at Swansea University heard eating insects was both nutritious and a way of helping the environment.

Professor Arnold van Huis of Wageningen University in Belgium said: "Insects are eaten all over the world and especially in the Tropics. In the western world we are in the minority for not eating them.

"Looking at it from an environmental point of view, it would be much better if we changed our food habits."

Insects are high in nutrition, according to Professor van Huis, and they convert food into meat more efficiently than animals like cows or pigs.

He said: "Currently 70% of our land is taken up by rearing livestock - we need alternatives.

Insects are much more efficient in converting food into meat. They are also coldblooded and don't need to maintain a high body temperature."

While 80% of the world's population dine on locusts, crickets and beetles, they are rarely found on menus in Europe.

But Professor van Huis said it was a case of mind over matter.

"There is an issue that we are not used to it but that's a psychological reason," he said.

"There are possibilities to overcome those aversions. For example, you can grind them up so they are not recognisable any more.

"The other way is extracting the proteins so we can add them to foods - that way you don't realise any more that it's an insect."

And more experimental diners can leaf through insect cookery books, according to Professor van Huis, who said locust was probably his favourite dish.

"There are a number of recipe books on insects," he said.

"They are mostly fried. The taste depends on the spices you use and if they are tasty or not.

"But it is quite a challenge to prepare them.

"There are a lot of different insects prepared in many different ways. …