Even though most Americans cringe at the thought of eating a bug, there are many countries in which it is common practice. Entomophagy is the formal term for the human practice of eating insects for food(1). The practice has been around since the beginning of time as insects were the easiest and most available food source for our early ancestors. But in today’s sophisticated societies, especially in America, the practice is mostly obsolete and the idea disgusts most people.
Did you know that a side of caterpillars (less than 1/2 cup) has 28 grams of protein and is packed with iron and vitamins B1 and B3?
This is about the same protein level in an equivalent portion of lean beef, but the beef comes up way short in iron and vitamin levels(2). Can you believe it? Other insects that are also great sources of protein are grasshoppers, crickets and locusts… and apparently, they are mild in flavor so they easily pick up the flavors of spices they’ve been cooked with (3). Eating 1/2 cup of ants provides 14 grams of protein and 48 grams of calcium! And they are low carb.
Farming insects for food is far more friendly to the environment and the wallet than farming livestock or even vegetables(3)
With a growing focus on reducing carbon footprints and living in greater respect and harmony with Mother Earth, farming insects may take hold and become an accepted and respected food source in Europe and America, IF we can get past the “ick” factor.
Will cute and creative marketing of bug based food products be enough to get past the “yuck” factor?
Some food companies are testing it out. Check out the cricket based protein bars from Exo or the Hopper Bars from Hopper Foods(4). On the wrapper, the “X” in Exo is two cricket legs. Cute, right? Or how about the new cricket based chips from Six Foods called “Chirps”. Will it work? Will it be enough to open people’s minds and wallets to give bugs a spot in our culinary consumption? From what I’ve read, it sounds like the insects chosen for human consumption have a mild or pleasing taste, so if we can get past the gag factor, maybe they have a chance.
If you want to try this at home, buy the bugs or raise them yourself.
Catching bugs from your backyard will most likely be full of pesticides, so it is best to raise the insects yourself or buy them from pet stores, bait shops or insect suppliers on the internet(2). Even if you have no interest in ever adding bugs to your daily diet, remember that in a dire situation, they might save your life. If out in the wild and needing to eat bugs to survive, use this rule of thumb: Red, orange, or yellow… forget this fellow. Black, green or brown… wolf it down.
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Image source: https://flic.kr/p/2ah3Hh