Comment permalink

It's time to start eating bugs

Cultural food phobias are a funny thing. I understand personal food phobias - I myself cannot tolerate the squishy-yet-gritty texture of beans - but our cultural taboos about what you can and cannot eat are as odd and arbitrary as they are unquestioned. Americans eat cows, for example, but not horses. We eat pigs, but not guinea pigs. We eat sheep, but not goats.

More to the point: we happily eat aquatic arthropods (including crabs, shrimp, and lobster). But we draw the line at terrestrial arthropods (i.e. insects). 
 
Some people believe we should change that opinion. The European Union, for example, has a three million-Euro bonus for any member state that promotes eating insects. And from a logical standpoint, they have a good point. The world is getting increasingly more crowded, and the ecological overhead of raising beef, chicken and pork is simply unsustainable. If Americans insist on continuing to eat meat, we may have to compromise and start eating insect meat, instead. 
 
Nevertheless, the phrase "insect meat" gives me the shivers.

Compared to conventional livestock, insects are unquestionably better in almost every respect. Insects are ten times more efficient to raise, they are high in protein and low in fat, require only a fraction the amount of land and water, emit only 10 percent the methane, and instead of consuming valuable crops (like corn and wheat) they can be fed garbage and industrial waste (like paper pulp). 

Let's face facts: Insects are the future of sustainable agriculture. Particularly with the world's increasing population, chronic shortage of arable land, and the rising cost of crops like soybeans due to the need for biofuels. Grasshoppers aren't picky about being fed decent corn or soybeans; they can happily subsist on any sort of rangeland you want to hand them. 
 
Cultures all over the world and throughout history have eaten insects. Heck, the Old Testament even encourages it: Leviticus specifies that four types of insects are considered kosher (locusts, bald locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers). 
 
Because insects are small and cheap to raise, insect husbandry could become the next artisanal microbrew culture. Hipsters throughout New York City could start rearing their own colonies of grasshoppers and crickets for use in haute cuisine. "Eat Local," indeed! It doesn't get much more local than "raised by my neighbor in a wire mesh cage on the roof of our apartment building."
 
And let's not kid ourselves. If half the beef filling in a Taco Bell Beefy Nacho Burrito was replaced with ground meal-worm, would anyone really notice?