Entomophagy: Why People Should Eat More Bugs

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt
around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.
-Matthew 3:4

“I’d rather eat a big old bug! Than ever take a stupid drug!”
-1998, anti-drug psa

Industrial meat production is environmentally destructive, horribly cruel to the animals involved, unsanitary, source of noxious odors, and highly inefficient. I have witnessed the environmental destruction, for example, that large scale hog facilities do to both air and water quality (not to mention property values), and I have heard countless stories of these creatures being over crowed, unable to move and subject to painful body modifications.

With this in mind, I did a Google search and found that it takes  around estimated 7 to 15 pounds of grain to produce a single pound of beef. Much of this grain of course is produced, through agricultural systems which involve high levels of chemical inputs, including fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. As such, maybe it is time for to look for
alternatives, to the typical American Diet.

There are plenty of resources on the web that discuss, the pros and cons of vegetarianism and veganism, and I do not wish to explore those options here. There is also, the option of eating more wild meat. This can actually be a very positive thing, since there are many places in the country where deer and other herbivores are in need of population control. This is especially true, since many of this continents native predators have been killed in places they were once very abundant. That said, I’m not sure, that we would be able to feed a population as large as ours, with wild meat, and sadly many do not have the time or ability to go to America’s wild lands and hunt or fish (not to mention the countless other ways to enjoy the America’s wild places). There are other people, of course, who simply do not want hunt or fish, and find the killing of sentient beings objectionable.

There is little to know, talk about a very practical solution: Entomophagy, the practice of eating insects as food. Insects have long been a major part of the human diet, and are an excellent source of protein. Though, eating ants and beetles has become taboo, in much
of the western world, it is still a common practice in many parts of Central and South America; and Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. As such, entomophagy has been documented in 80% of the world’s nations. There are currently 1,417 known species of arthropods edible to humans, making for endless variety. The include not only insects, but arachnids, and myriapods (the group that includes centipedes and millipedes).

Crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, ants, various beetle grubs,Give Bugs a Chance caterpillars and tarantula’s are common snack foods around the world. For example, Algerians collect Dessert locust, that they cook with salt water and dry in the sun. Australian Aborigines use
Bogong moths to make into cakes. They also use witchety grubs, for a snack that has be compared to almonds. The Japanese still use a number of insects including Silk moths, after they have passed the stage of producing silk, as food. Roasted crickets and grasshoppers are eaten in much of Africa, and I have been told, that fried or chocolate covered ants are eaten in a manner similar to pop corn in several places.

These are a good source, of Iron, Calcium, unsaturated fats, lysine and many vitamins and minerals.  They are also much more efficient source of these nutrients the meat of larger livestock. Mammals use a lot of what the eat, keeping themselves warm, and only around 10% of what cattle consume, become parts of their bodies. With insects the range is more like 20-40% depending on the species. A study, with house crickets, in fact, found them to be 2 to 6 times as efficient as various forms of traditional food animals. They also, have he
advantage of reproducing much faster, and requiring less, space, food and water than traditional livestock. These factors give insects a food conversion efficiency nearly 20 times higher than beef.

Entomophagy, has gotten some exposure in recent years from reality TV, which often does not present it in an appealing light. I have also attended events where people with much more sophisticated cooking backgrounds produce much more accessible insect based food.  This is not to mention that production processes inevitable get insects into our food, and we have all ingested countless insect parts without realizing. The USDA currently allows an “Average of 150 or more insect fragments per 100 grams” of wheat flower.

One last thing, insect consumption, is far more ethical than that of other animals, in that you are not killing creatures with with sophisticated brains or high levels self awareness, as opposed to animals like the pig, which are apparently as intelligent as our dogs.

Insects lack sophisticated mental hardware, and as such, there is little remorse associated with eating them, swatting them or seeing them die. As such, they are a much more humane food choice than cattle, lambs, chicken or pigs. I also, expect in this era of communication and epicurean adventurism, there will be many new and exciting dishes featuring them coming soon.

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