We’ve all heard about (or maybe even have tried) chocolate-covered crickets, ants, and grasshoppers. Considered a culinary delicacy in some circles, usually the insect in question is so dried out before it’s dipped in chocolate that it has the consistency of a Chinese crispy noodle. So in reality it’s kind of like eating a Nestle’s Crunch Bar.
Except that you now have bragging rights to say that you ate an insect.
But in other countries eating bugs and insects is as commonplace as munching on a French fry. Containing just as much protein as beef or chicken, bugs and insects are a main staple for people in Southeast Asia, India, and Africa, where it’s estimated that over two billion people make insects part of their daily diet.
And we’re not talking about underdeveloped regions that don’t have electricity and indoor
plumbing. Due to customer demand, many fine restaurants in these countries serve dishes
that include the larvae of caterpillars, moths, and bees, as well as barbecued grasshoppers,
locust and deep-fried tarantulas (as just a few examples).
Even in the U.S. restaurants use FDA-approved, bug-based ingredients in many of their dishes. For example, Starbucks just announced last April that they would discontinue use
of a food coloring made from the extract of cochineal insects found in the tropics of South
America. It’s the red dye Starbucks had used in many of their drinks. That is, until the
company received a petition to stop from over 6,500 of their patrons. People didn’t like the
idea of bugs in their $5 Frappuccinos.
The Benefits of Eating Creepy-Crawly Food
Over the next 30 years the human population will clock in at about nine billion. That’s a
lot of mouths to feed. We’re already running out of food sources, as well as places to grow
food, why not look to Mother Nature to provide alternatives? Because if you can get beyond the “ick” factor of eating bugs and insects, there are many irrefutable benefits of developing a taste for these little creatures.
- Environmentally Friendly
Bugs and insects emit fewer gasses. Eighteen percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are from livestock. It would take more insects than there are on the planet to disperse the same amount of methane gas spewed of a herd of cattle. Not to mention the odious gasses brought to you courtesy of pigs, chickens, sheep, and goats.
Insects by far are cheaper to feed than any other live food source. According to the World Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) it takes 10 kilograms of plant matter to create one kilogram of beef protein. This translates to an average cost of over $3 per pound for beef to the consumer. However, for insects that same 10 kg of plant matter creates 9 kg of insect protein, which costs literally pennies per pound of insect meat. And except for maybe bees, bugs and insects usually don’t require any special housing, like a stall or a barn.
Bugs and insects reproduce like crazy, so much so that there are entire industries built on getting rid of them. But even if everyone started eating bugs and insects today, they’re not going away any time soon. Since they reproduce so fast there’s little chance of them ever becoming endangered or extinct.
So far we humans haven’t injected bugs and insects with hormones or sprayed them with chemicals (except to kill them). Therefore, they are considered, at least for the time being, a naturally clean, organic source of nutrition.
So the next time you’re in a restaurant and you find a bug in your salad or a fly in your
soup, think before you complain. It might be in there on purpose. And even if it isn’t, go
ahead and munch on it anyway. Someday in the not-so-distance future you just might be
charged extra for that added little tidbit.