One of the worst things you could probably do to a person is make them eat bugs. And yet, that’s part of my job. I’m an edible insect advocate, and I’m here to try and open your mind, and your mouth, to eating bugs.
Despite common public opinion, most insects are neither dirty, diseased, or dangerous. On the contrary, most edible species are cleaner than other livestock, highly nutritious, and even tasty. They are also ecologically sustainable to raise, requiring far less food, water, and land space than other animals.
A cow, for instance, fares best in a wide open field, with plenty of grass to eat and room to roam. Even if not raised in these idyllic conditions, the food the cow eats requires basically the same thing – plenty of wide open space.
The problem, of course, is that as a planet, we are running out of this essential resource. In order to feed the growing global demand for meat, we are cutting down rainforests to make room both for cows to graze, and to grow soy and grain to feed the cows. This has a double-whammy effect on the environment: the cows produce methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more impactful than CO2; and deforestation diminishes the Earth’s bronchioles, the trees that breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen. We are burning the candle at both ends, turning up the heat on global warming.
Insects, on the other hand, don’t need these wide open spaces. In fact, they tend to fare quite well in enclosed spaces, and don’t mind teeming with their brethren. Because of this, they can be raised indoors, in urban environments, and even take up space vertically – where we’ve got room to expand. They’re also more efficient at turning energy from food directly into body mass, partly because unlike other livestock, they’re cold-blooded.
Also, most edible insects are consumed whole, which means minimal processing. Meanwhile only about 60% of a cow winds up eaten, after considerable processing. That insects are consumed whole means more nutrition for us, too. Insects are higher in certain vitamins and minerals, like iron and calcium, than beef is. Eating a handful of crickets, for example, is like eating a handful of tiny cows – tiny, crunchy cows that taste like nuts.
Most people in the West think their negative mental perception of insects translates to their taste buds. An exciting part of my job is being present when they find out that they’re wrong.
I’ve seen it dozens of times. Before a person tries their first bite of bug, their whole body is tensed up. Their face is squinched tight, they rock from foot to foot, they fan themselves with their hands in anticipation. Then – crunch. Their whole face pops open. Their eyebrows shoot up. “That’s… that’s not bad!” they say, and ask for seconds.
The bottom line is that our world population is growing by leaps and bounds. Why not meet its needs with a protein that also leaps and bounds?