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Why We Need To Eat Bugs

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Roasted Crickets

The Benefit of Eating Insects

In a world where the population is increasing towards 8 billion people, we must question where food will come from. In the direction we’re headed, the answer may unfortunately be to increase the number of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where cattle, pigs, turkeys, and chickens are kept in confined places and raised for food. This may seem like the natural answer to most people. But most people don’t see the resources lost, the waste involved, and the water contaminated through meat obtained through CAFOs.

Daniella Martin, a blogger for Huffington Post and the host of Girl Meets Bug, gives an accurate picture of this otherwise invisible waste in her book Edible. She describes that per 1 pound of beef there is “4 pounds of manure, 1000 pounds of contaminated water, 200 square feet of space used (2 acres per cow), 10 pounds of feed used, methane (20 times more potent than carbon dioxide), and the carbon released by 1 pound of gasoline” that we don’t see. To even imagine the resources needed and the waste created to feed 8 billion people or more through raising animals in CAFOs is simply scary. So how do we avoid this path? Vegetarianism seems like the logical answer. Although it sounds good, it’s not necessarily realistic. There are many places on earth that aren’t suitable for farming, and these people would starve waiting for food to be shipped out to them once food resources dwindled, not to mentions the high fuel costs involved. Also, animal protein contains complete sets of essential amino acids which are necessary for human functioning. The answer to this global problem could very well lie in our friendly little creature, the insect.

To compare the waste and resources of animal meat obtained through CAFOs, let’s look at the numbers for raising insects. To obtain 1 pound of insects, it takes “2 pounds of feed, 1 gallon of water, and 2 cubic feet of space” (Martin, 2014). In comparison, one hundred pounds of feed produces 10 pounds of beef. The same amount of food would produce 4 times the amount of crickets. So, they’re more efficient than raising cattle, but you might question how beneficial they are to eat. What nutritional value do they hold? Do they stand up to beef, chicken, and pork? 100 grams of crickets contains 121 calories, 12.9 grams of protein, and 75.8 milligrams of iron. Some options, such as silk worms and termites, contain zero carbohydrates and are a great source of protein and calories. Caterpillars are packed with iron, thiamine, niacin, and contain 28 grams of protein per 100 grams. Lean ground beef and fish are on par with caterpillars as far as protein goes, but are lacking in the vitamin and iron levels (Bryant, 2008). In places of the world where red meat is hard to come by, iron-deficiency anemia could even be prevented by eating insects. By switching, or substituting part of our diet with insects, we could greatly impact our environment and economy through reducing waste and conserving resources, and this would accommodate the rising population and their need for food.

People might initially turn away at the thought of eating bugs because they’re not a traditional food source, but preparation and presentation are key. Although they are edible, and can even be delicious raw, seasoning and cooking insects makes them much more palatable to those unfamiliar to the idea. Most people would never eat a slimy, raw, quivering piece of chicken, but once barbequed and slathered with sauce, everyone’s mouth is watering. Mealworms with chili and garlic fried with butter are comparable to “little roasted peanuts” (Genziuk, 2013). Grasshoppers prepared with a Southern Mexican recipe yields a crunchy, garlic, lime and salt laced delight (Lallanilla, 2013). For those who are squeamish about seeing the actual bug, roasted crickets can be ground into a fine powder and added like a flour to baked goods for a nutritious, protein-packed supplement (Martin, 2014). Whichever way you choose, insects can be prepared to your taste.

Because we are facing an increasing population, food is a basic need that must be addressed in the most economic and environmentally beneficial way possible. Because insects provide not only the same amount of protein as beef, fish, and chicken, but more vitamins and essential minerals, insects are a smart replacement. They are grown relatively easily in urban areas, do not take up much space or resources, and their waste is biodegradable. They can be prepared like meat and served in dishes where meat is normally featured and can even be delicious. So before you say “Ick,” think about the possibilities for a more nutritious, environmentally-friendly, more efficient future!

References

Bryant, C. W. (2008, August 15). How Entomophagy Works . Retrieved from How Stuff Works: http://people.howstuffworks.com/entomophagy3.htm

Genziuk, S. (2013, January 30). How to Prepare and Eat Mealworms . Retrieved from Ground to ground: http://groundtoground.org/2013/01/30/how-prepare-...

Lallanilla, M. (2013, October 1). 7 Insects You'll Be Eating in the Future. Retrieved from Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/40096-eating-insects-b...

Martin, D. (2014). Edible: An Adventure Into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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