Why is eating bugs good?
Food security is among one of the most pressing concerns of our time. As our planet’s population increases, it is more and more important to find a sustainable source of food – particularly protein – to feed everyone, without depleting ecosystems, causing mass habitat destruction, or contributing to global climate change. Many possible solutions have been touted, and one of the most interesting – and most controversial – is eating bugs. Although they’re commonly eaten in most cultures around the world, certain parts of the world (like the U.S.A.) may still find it disgusting to snack on, say, cricket. But this is just the perception of insects, rather than any intrinsic grossness. Some foods that used to be considered garbage are now thought of as one of the most refined meals for your palate – why shouldn’t bugs be the same?
Cockroach of the Ocean
Time for a quick trip through history: did you know that lobster, one of the fanciest, most expensive foods out there today, used to be called ‘the cockroach of the ocean’? Back when lobsters were so incredibly abundant that Massachusetts inhabitants found them washed up in piles on the beach, lobster was considered food for prisoners or poor people. It’s even been theorised that indentured servants forced the colony to sign a contract that the servants wouldn’t be fed lobster more than three times a week.
This changed when transportation managers realised they could label lobster as ‘foreign’ or ‘exotic’ food, and serve it to passengers on trains who wouldn’t be familiar with it otherwise. People who had never heard of it before absolutely loved it. By the 1920s, lobster prices had skyrocketed, hitting their first peak. This firmly established the lobster, something which used to be reviled, as a luxury food item for the rich and famous.
Curiously, at least taxonomically speaking, arthropods (land insects) and crustaceans (shelled ocean animals) are not too dissimilar from each other. Some people even say that certain types of insect taste like crabs or lobsters, and they share a lot of the same characteristics. It’s not so surprising that it might also experience a revolution in how people think of it. This isn’t to say we should make eating insects ludicrously expensive like lobster, but just acceptable and normalised in places where it isn’t yet.
Benefits to eating bugs
So what are the benefits of bugs as food? Here are just a few:
- Good source of protein! Caterpillars for instance provide more protein and iron than beef in the same quantity.
- It’s twenty times more efficient to raise insect protein than beef, as the entire bug is often edible, unlike cows which produce hooves, bones, fur, and the like.
- Low costs for raising. You need a lot less space to produce the same amount of protein in insect form as in mammal form.
- Easier to farm and harvest bugs without needing as much water, or expensive grain, to feed them.
- Flavour! Some larvae are said to taste like bacon, some taste like chicken, and some as mentioned above even taste like lobster, a well-established delicacy.
- Versatility. You can grind bugs up and put them in flour, bake them into flapjacks, eat them spiced, caramelised, or just on their own.
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