The Tree of Life attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom teaches us that it is tough to be a bug.
Well, someday soon it could get a lot tougher, if the UN Food and Agricultural Organization has anything to say about it. They are looking at bugs as a viable source of protein and not just the occasional delicacy of chocolate covered grasshoppers.
There are already more than 2 billion people who practice entomophagy (consuming insects as food), and the numbers are rising. With the burden that raising livestock is placing on the environment there is need to research alternatives. With the growing population in need of sources of protein, insects are being billed as the next best thing to a good old hamburger.
Think of it this way. If the population reaches the estimated 9 billion by 2050, and the lack of arable land for farming continues to be a problem, there is a need to look to other ways of providing food to the growing population. The greenhouse gas emission needs to be considered as well as the increased use of pesticides on farmland. Enter the mosquito — or whatever bugs they have in mind. (But my personal choice is the mosquito).
In the United States we still think of bug eating as a fraternity initiation or an entry for Funniest Home Videos. In many parts of the world consuming insects provides not only much needed protein, but other nutritional benefits as well, like fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. This is not a new idea. Vincent Holt wrote a manifesto in 1885 titled “Why Not Eat Insects?” I honestly don’t think it caught on based the lack of moths in deli counters.
All we need is a few clever entrepreneurs to get all Starbucks about it and design café mocha latte worm juice and frozen June bug smoothie. It will be sure to take off. Then a creative competitor will open a McInsects and introduce the McGrasshopper sandwich, the Ant McMuffin and for those of us who still like our greens, the wasp Caesar salad. As for palatability, we just have to get used to it.
This may take a while, although a few restaurants in the West have been offering novelty items like crickets and mealworms. In fact, in France (leave it to the French to think they can put a fancy word on it and pass it off as food) you can try palm weevils with beetroot and oil of truffle with your vin natural. (That just means organic wine. See how they trick us?) Water scorpions with preserved peppers and black garlic or grasshopper with quail eggs are being served in Le Festin Nu Bistro in Paris.
In the U.S. we serve them up but in a less overt way. Ground up crickets are used as flour and the main protein in energy bars. (I won’t name the brands). I have also read a report that said chocolate bars have an average of eight insects parts per bar and people who think they are allergic to chocolate are really just allergic to cockroaches.
Before you get all ‘underwear in a bundle,’ remember that insects have a much smaller carbon footprint than livestock. They don’t produce methane and are far less likely to breed new strains of diseases.
There still seems to be a psychological barrier. Have you ever looked a cow in the face? How can eating her be any more traumatic or disgusting than a cricket? And if I can believe what I read, beetle larvae and grilled termites are delicious and nutritious. I have never tasted shoofly pie but I have heard it, too, is very tasty.
If you are still hesitating, think of it as a great way to get rid of all those pesky mosquitoes and get healthy at the same time. Just fry up a few thousand of those little buggers, spread them on toast, add some lettuce and mayo and there you have it — protein ala pest control.
As an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications, Kay Stellpflug challenges companies, organizations, and individuals to stretch. She lives in, works in and loves Beaver Dam.