Friday, May 2, 2014

Eat A Bug

Via Andrew Sullivan, Joseph Stromberg at Vox makes the case for eating insects.

Put simply, our increasing reliance on factory-farmed meat is killing the planet.

Growing grain and then feeding it to animals so we can eat them — the way the majority of meat is produced nowadays — is incredibly inefficient. Between the carbon dioxide emitted as a result of growing grain and the methane burps emitted by cows as they digest it, it’s estimated that raising livestock generates about 18 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions.

Studies have found that raising insects like mealworms and crickets for food, on the other hand, is much more environmentally friendly, because we don’t need to clear nearly as much land to raise them, they’re cold-blooded — so require less feed per unit of body weight to sustain themselves — and we can consume their entire bodies, wasting little flesh.

[…]

It turns out that pound for pound, eating insects like crickets and mealworms (larvae that later turn into beetles) provides similar levels of fat and protein to conventional meats like beef, chicken, and fish.

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Your first reaction to this article was probably a sense of revulsion. For many readers, there’s something intrinsically gross about the idea of eating insects.

But there’s nothing innate about that disgust. For one, billions of people already eat insects in Asia, Africa, and Latin America every day. More generally, the animals considered to be fit for consumption vary widely from culture to culture for arbitrary reasons.

Most Americans consider the idea of eating horses or dogs repugnant, even though there’s nothing substantial that differentiates horses from cows. Meanwhile, in India, eating cows is taboo, while eating goat is common.

These random variations are the results of cultural beliefs that crystallize over generations, until it begins to seem like a natural truth that eating insects is gross. (io9 has a fascinating history of how that came to happen in European and American culture.) We’re all subject to it: the times I’ve eaten insects, I’ve battled a sense of disgust while objectively enjoying the taste of a crispy fried cricket.

Luckily, these arbitrary taboos can be defeated over time. There was a time when raw fish — served as sushi — was seen as repugnant in mainstream US culture. Now it’s ubiquitous.

With luck, insects — like crickets, for instance, which are closely related to shrimp — may come to seem like elegant hors d’oeuvres.

How about it?  Would you consider adding insects to your diet?

4 barks and woofs on “Eat A Bug

  1. Well, I have…purely by accident. Who hasn’t found a critter in their salad? Nearly all of our produce and processed food has parts of bugs in them. What you don’t know won’t hurt you, right?

  2. BARF.

    I’m a chocoholic – but I draw the line at chocolate covered ants. If I can’t do it when they’re covered in chocolate, there’s no way I could do it any other way.

  3. I think I rather just go vegetarian, rather than eat bugs! Course there are many days I rather not eat animals anyhow, so maybe its not so far off…

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