Insects, food and insects as food

As you may have noticed, there has been a lot of bee-related coverage lately.

I wrote about bees twice last year, once about the Bee Cause and the other about saving the bees with useful petitions on the subject, and there was a FOE stall at last year’s London Green Fair to spread the word about them too.

This continuous “bee talk” is due to the fact that further evidence has been found on the sharp decline in bee numbers.

According to an extract from Friends of the Earth’s report on the UK’s bee decline “Professor Simon Potts, said:

“The way we farm and use land across the UK has pushed many rare bees into serious decline. I’m calling on the Government to act swiftly to save these iconic creatures which are essential to a thriving environment and our food supply”.

How could let this happen? If bees are essential, how can we use farming methods that put them in danger?

Sandra Bell, Friends of the Earth, said:

“These bee species are in real trouble. But people across the UK can help change all that with simple practical actions and by urging their MPs to play their part. We need a Bee Action Plan now.””

Another article on the Guardian, US honeybees threatened as 31% of colonies died out in 2012 really highlights the direct effects that bees’ numbers decline is having on farmers right now:

“The heavy losses of pollinators also threatens the country’s food supply, researchers said. The US Department of Agriculture has estimated that honeybees contribute some $20bn to the economy every year.

$20bn is a huge amount of money, so surely someone is doing something to stop bees’ decline…right?

“In a report last week, the federal government blamed a combination of factors for the rapid decline of honeybees, including a parasitic mite, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition and genetics, as well as the effects of pesticides. But scientists and campaign groups have singled out the use of a widely used class of pesticides, which scramble the honeybees’ sense of navigation.”

Great, let’s ban these bee-killing pesticides then!

“The European Union has imposed a two-year ban on such pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, to study their effects on bee populations. However, the US authorities say there is no clear evidence pointing to pesticides as the main culprit for honeybees’ decline.”

So what can we do?

Fortunately we can get straight to the point: there are many petitions to help bees, such as ones that focus on banning these above mentioned harmful pesticides that contribute to the bees’ decline, neonicotinoids. Simply go on Change.org to do your bit with a quick online signature to help.

Otherwise, on the FOE (friends of the Earth) website you can donate to have your bee kit with seeds to grow flowers loved by bees, a bee guide, a garden planner or just sign a petition to ask David Cameron to make 2013 the year of the bee.

There are some upcoming Bee-friendly events and you can check them on this Friends of the Earth link.

Have you noticed the decline in bees lately? I hardly see any at all 😦

Bee saver Kit

Bee saver Kit – foe.co.uk

Talking about insects… I read another interesting article: “UN urges people to eat insects to fight world hunger

According to this UN report, eating insects would increase nutrition thanks to insects’ high protein, fat and mineral content (caterpillars have more protein than minced beef).

In addition to that, they are more sustainable: “Insects are also “extremely efficient” in converting feed into edible meat. Crickets, for example, need 12 times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein, according to the report.”

The only time I tried eating insects of any kind was in Beijing in Wángfǔjǐng, famous for having just about anything on a stick.

Wangfujing's Delicacies

Wangfujing’s Delicacies – Chubby bugs and scorpions – Jul ’07

Insects are a common ingredient in many countries, so if you aren’t used to eating them, would you consider trying them? And if you already eat them, what do you think of people who find it odd or even repulsive to eat insects?

Wangfujing's Delicacies

Wangfujing’s Delicacies – Feb ’09

Eating scorpions in Wangfujing - July '07

Eating scorpions in Wangfujing – July ’07

I tried scorpions, deep-fried, and they’re actually pleasant and tasty!

~

On another meat-free note, tomorrow is the start of National Vegetarian Week! A great opportunity to try new, more sustainable meat-free meals.

Most of my posts are about vegetarian or vegan recipes but there are many other great websites I can recommend:

Vegetarian = Sustainably Tasty

Vegetarian = Sustainably Tasty

Are you planning to try some meat-free dishes during National Vegetarian Week?

Where do you get your food inspiration from?

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Rosie Y: Experimenting

“Anyone who’s ever told you that you couldn’t make a difference was wrong.”

This is a very important concept from J-F and B L’s blog 222 Million Tons, which is a constant help and inspiration to me.

Since starting this blog in February 2012 I know I have positively influenced some people to think more of what we do, buy, use and waste and these actions’ effects on our surroundings. From showing my mum how easy and better it is to finely chop and eat broccoli stalks rather than throwing them away – which is a small change, an easy-to-get-used-to habit – to bigger issues such as climate change.

After starting a new job in December 2012, I got to know a very interesting, stylish and overall amazing young lady, Rosie Y.

We went to a great exhibition at London’s Kensington Olympia, ART 13, and I asked her a few questions about her little experiment…

Rosie Y - @ ART 13

Meet Rosie Y

For the whole month of February you didn’t eat meat, fish or eggs. Why did you decide to do this?

Because I love eating and in China there is a saying: “民以食为天”, which is an idiom that means “Food is the God of the people”.

When I was in China I decided I would not eat meat in order to lose weight but then I gave up, I didn’t even insist for one day! This time I was determined to give it a go as I hadn’t tried a diet that limited this kind of food before: it was like an experiment to see if I could do it, it was my goal to do it.

The trigger was when my friend, Su Fei, had a vegan month in January and I was very inspired by this and wanted to do something similar. I had previously failed my attempts but Su Fei succeeded so it was time for me to try it.

How did it go?

I was very surprised not to feel any different at first. It turns out that not eating meat, fish or eggs for a month is not as difficult as I expected, but I also didn’t feel lighter or healthier as I expected. I made more of my own food for diversity.

Vegetarian and vegan choices in normal restaurants are few, even normal sandwich shops offer very few meat-free options – I have to admit that I got very tired of eating falafels! Oh, the only difference might be that I felt hungrier, or I got hungry easily; however my stomach always felt good, unlike when it sometimes feels uncomfortable, too full and I feel guilty after eating meat.

Are there any positive aspects you noticed during your meat-free experiment?

I expected it to be very hard but now I feel like I can do so much more, I am not afraid of trying new things. Su Fei suggested to upload some pictures of the food I was eating on Instagram and many people from all over the world liked them, that was very surprising and encouraging.  Before my experiment I thought that meat-free vegetarian food wouldn’t be as tasty as meat dishes but after seeing their pictures I realised that it also look and taste just as delicious.

Before this experiment I didn’t like salad. Now I really appreciate salad’s natural taste, and the same happened with Brussels sprouts and other vegetables I tried. Also, I often used to go for food that had many added condiments and sauces, now I really like simple food as well, less processed and less ready-made.

When you eat, do you think about food’s sustainability?

No, but I don’t know why I believe eating vegetarian is a good thing. At the end of the experiment on 1st March I bought fried chicken, not because I wanted it but because it was an easy and practical option. After eating it I felt unwell, my stomach felt heavy, too full, and I felt like a garbage bin for junk food. I did think that maybe I should carry on eating vegetarian.

After trying a vegetarian month, do you feel like trying and eating more vegetables and fruit?

Yes, I have a plan. I must have a whole vegetarian day before having meat or fish the next, as I feel like a vegetarian diet is good for me and also good for the planet.

Rosie Y @ ART 13

Rosie Y @ ART 13

 

Would you consider giving up meat/fish/eggs/dairy for a while to be healthier/more sustainable/ try something new?

Green Trails and Teapot Tales and My 30-Day Vegan Pledge

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog!
After spending my 3rd University year in China studying Chinese, I became more aware of the effects our everyday actions and habits have on the environment and what we can do to prevent Venice becoming the new Atlantis (because of global warming and rising sea levels) by the time my little nephew graduates from school.

While I was in China I began reading more about environmental issues, downloading podcasts about the environment, nature and eco-friendly buildings, products and transport.

I also found out that what we choose to eat has a great effect on how the Earth’s resources are used and I have gradually stopped eating meat (even though I occasionally eat sustainable fish such as line caught mackerel).
My next step is to try something new: I have pledged to be a vegan for a month starting from tomorrow.
For 30 days I am not going to eat anything that has anything to do with any sort of animal, to understand and see for myself if it really is a lot healthier as some say or if it really is over the top as others say.

 

Why Vegan?

Vegans may seem like awkward dinner guests who really love animals, but the reason why many people choose a vegan diet are several:

  • Meat is murder: of course, if you happen to have meat on your plate it means that an animal was killed. However silly and obvious this may sound, in the UK we are so used to seeing meat neatly packed in ready to cook /serve glamorous packaging that is very easy to forget that what you are about to eat used be part of a living creature.

 

Mum and baby cow

 

  • Milk production can be cruel: dairy cows are bred to produce 10 times more milk than a calf would naturally drink and once they don’t produce enough they are sent to the slaughterhouse.
  • Egg production can be cruel: most hens used to be kept in tiny cages and an EU ban on battery cages has started only very recently, but their conditions are still appalling in many countries. In addition to that, male chicks that are born to replace laying hens are killed at just one day old as they are useless for egg production, even in factories that produce free range or organic eggs.

 

Chicks

 

  • Honey production isn’t so sweet: Queen bees are artificially inseminated and killed when their fertility decreases and whole colonies may be killed to save on feeding them over the winter.

Bee

  • Meat production causes environmental devastation: in today’s factory farms animals are crammed together and raised for the sole purpose of being killed for meat, in slaughterhouses that don’t follow best practice rules many animals are neglected and in a terrible state even before they reach the abattoir (what an awful, macabre name!).
  • A vegan diet provides all the nutrients our body needs without animals’ saturated fats and toxic elements that can be found in meat and eggs.
  • Vegetarians and vegans live longer: plant-based diets are healthier and non-meat eaters are less likely to have heart disease problems, diabetes, strokes, cancer and obesity.

Why is being Vegan the best thing you could do protect the environment?

To explain this efficiently I will quote part of a really interesting Peta article: “[…] for every kilo of food that animals eat, only a fraction of the calories are returned in the form of edible flesh.If we stopped intensively breeding farmed animals and grew crops to feed humans instead, we would easily be able to feed every humans on the planet with healthy and affordable vegan foods.

Growing feed for animals instead of food for people also means a constant appetite for land, leading to the destruction of rainforests while livestock farming itself is a major contributor to greenhouse emissions, soil erosion, water pollution and a host of other environmental problems.” A vegan diet uses half the amount of land used to produce a typical vegetarian diet and one fifth of that used for a typical European omnivorous diet.

I will end this post with a song by the Smiths called “Meat is Murder” and click on the highlighted words if you would like to know more.

Thank you 🙂