Would You Make Insects a Part of Your Diet to Save The Planet?
Bugs. They’re everywhere.
Usually when we find an insect, we wish we hadn’t, especially when it’s in our food. But what if it was our food? For many people, the consumption of insects is an integral part of their daily diet. For most North Americans, it definitely is not. Actually, if we found cockroaches in a restaurant we’d more be more likely to report them and shut them down rather than pull up a chair and start eating them. Of course, when insects are prepared for human consumption, you wouldn’t find them scurrying about on the floor, you’d find them on your plate. Perhaps you’d enjoy a crispy deep-fried tarantula, or some mescal worm tacos. There are chefs experimenting with insects all over the world. The practice of eating insects and arachnids is called Entomophagy. Some practicing proponents of entomophagy say that everyone should include insects in their diets. Why? For the planet, of course.
Nobody knows what the future holds for our planet, but our population is growing, fast. We use a lot of our arable farm land to grow feed for our livestock. According to the UN, the human population is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. 9 billion people will be tough to sustain given our current food model. Unless Elon Musk can colonize Mars and get some of our species off the planet, we will need to find another way. Some people think that integrating insects into our diets is a good start. It might even be a solution. What would it take for you to accept and maybe even enjoy eating insects on a regular basis?
It’s going to be an uphill battle to convert many people to entomophagy. For most, the disgust associated with eating insects is a mental association that will be hard to break. Do you remember the show called Fear Factor? If you don’t, it’s a show that used to pay people to compete in stunts where the winner would get $50,000. Often times, one of the challenges on the show would be eating insects. Our culture had a show where we paid people to live out our fears – namely eating bugs. In a culture where eating bugs is so deeply ingrained to be disgusting, even feared, how do we reverse those associations?
Some companies are taking a soft approach by trying to ease consumers into the idea of eating insects by producing products such as cricket protein bars, and cricket chips. Perhaps when they’re disguised as something we’d eat regularly, we’re more willing to give them a try. Someone even suggested calling them “land shrimp”, as insects do share some common features with their arthropod relatives. And who knows? Maybe one day we’ll snack on popcorn land shrimp without raising an eyebrow, but for now, most consumers stay wary of eating our 6 & 8 legged earthly co-habitants.
Some researchers have come to the conclusion that crickets can only equal the protein content of a chicken if they are raised using the same amount and same quality of feed that chickens currently eat. If that is the case, then it doesn’t make economic sense to raise crickets for human consumption yet. We would still need to find a sustainable model for feeding crickets and other insects that would be significantly lower than what we currently use to feed livestock.
If we can find a way to sustainably use insects as a major food source, the next huge obstacle to overcome is getting many humans onboard with the idea. Would you eat a bowl of grasshopper chili? Would you cook up a mealworm vegetable stir-fry for your kids if you knew that the food source was safe for consumption? Let us know in the comments!