My husband and I were deep in the golden triangle of Thailand. We had been hiking for most of the day. It was hot and we were sweaty. And with growling intestines, we were eagerly awaiting a meal of very authentic Thai food.
I hadn’t anticipated the meal that was presented to me – a great bowl of black beetles with chile and lime. Of course, I’m a sucker for chile and lime but I quickly allowed my sometimes vegan tendencies to exert themselves. “Um, no thank you.”
That was 20 years ago yet should the same scenario repeat itself today, I’m not likely to have a different reaction. In theory, it’s fine. If I can’t recognize it, I’m not bothered. But, hand me a six-legged creature that is readily identifiable and I back peddle like a fickle four year old with brussel sprouts.
Around the globe, more than 2 billion people consume insects as part of their daily diet and the UN recently released a study urging the rest of us to consider the practice in the face of growing population and scarce food supplies. Why? Because many of them are chock full of fiber, good fat, minerals and protein. The practice is known as entomophagy and it is practiced widely as it has been for centuries. Here are a few reasons that we ought to conquer the ick factor:
1. This is a way to reduce pest insects without using pesticides.
2. Harvesting insects can potentially create jobs where none were before.
3. I’ve already mentioned the protein, vitamins and minerals of insects.
4. Raising and harvesting insects require less natural resources than do mammals.
5. Insects emit fewer greenhouse gases than their four-legged counterparts.
A downside of eating bugs, as with meat and vegetables is that pesticide use renders insect consumption dangerous. However, some folks, like biologist Julieta Ramos-Elorduy, author of the cookbook, Creepy Crawly Cuisine are pioneering the practice as a new method of sustainability. Those pushing insect consumption quickly point to the fact that regardless of our preference, we’re likely consuming insects today. Scientific American recently reported that the FDA’s insect limit for hops going into the brewery tank is 2,500 aphids per 10 grams. Said another way, that’s a healthy 5 percent of total weight.
And there is also a trend factor. Popular blogger, Girl Meets Bug outlines insects that we ought to consider as part of our daily routine. At the Future Food Salon held in New York, attendees imbibed wine while sampling interesting gourmet snacks made with insects. Chocolate Chip Cricket Cookies were popular and a Kickstarter campaign recently raised more than $50,000 for Exo, the company endeavoring to produce protein bars from cricket flour.
So where do you stand on this topic? Prepared to your liking, are you open-minded to this new protein source with all of it’s sustainable benefits? Could you pluck a grass hopper from a field as an appetizer or are you more likely to fall into the Exo crowd where crickets and cochineal are available but no longer recognizable as flour or food dye?