Eat More Insects, Says United Nations

Credit: Takoradee/wikimediaCredit: Takoradee/wikimediaThe Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has released a report that says that eating insects could help boost nutrition, alleviate world hunger, and reduce pollution.

Although insects are high in protein and include useful minerals there is some hesitancy towards eating insects in much of the West, where the “ick” factor remains a powerful force against the introduction of insects into mainstream cuisine.

For those readers on the East Coast Buzzfeed has (of course) provided a list of meals that call for cicadas, which are due to erupt in their billions this summer. 

I have never eaten an insect (apart from that one ant as a toddler and the occasional suicidal bug that decides to fly into my mouth), but it seems to me that there are some good nutritional and environmental reasons why it would be a good thing if we ate more insects. Plus, a growing insect farming sector could benefit our economy.

Greg Beato pointed out in an article for the August/September 2012 issue of Reason that we already have insect farms that cater to some pet owners:

Today’s insect farms primarily serve the pet food and bait markets. In the U.S., they produce enough food to keep approximately 13.6 million pet frogs, toads, and lizards satisfied, but humans tend to have bigger appetites, and there are a lot more of us. In the future, we will not only need far more insect farms; we will need bigger, more productive farms as well. 

Regulation of the industry is likely to get more stringent when people replace tarantulas as the target consumer. As insects inch their way toward the food pyramid, disease management capabilities will need to improve. (In the last few years, for example, cricket paralysis densovirus, which is harmless to humans and other creatures but fatal to Acheta domesticus, the common brown house cricket, has wreaked havoc on the commercial cricket industry in the U.S.)  

There will also be a great demand for processing—increasing shelf life, ensuring product safety and consistency, and, most of all, making mealworms and crickets look and feel and taste a little less like mealworms and crickets. While many people may never eat insects even after they’ve been beheaded, declawed, and dewinged, they might eat insect flour or sports bars fortified with insect protein.

Credit: Katherine Mangu-WardCredit: Katherine Mangu-WardI have it on good authority from my colleague Katherine Mangu-Ward that grasshoppers (pictured to the right) are “crunchy, salty, and delicious.” However, while grasshoppers and other insects might be delicious and emit less ammonia that livestock I suspect it will be a while before the American public embraces insects into their cuisine in enough quantity to significantly change our levels of pollution.

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  • Stormy Dragon||

    Shrimp and lobster are popular, despite being little different than insects. Not saying we should get rid of stakes, but I wouldn't object to a skewer of deep fried cicadas on the side.

  • $park¥||

    They aren't "little different than insects," they ARE insects. They just live in the water.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Insects have six legs. Lobsters, crabs and shrimp have 10.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Well, they're all arthropods, but insects are in the hexpoda subphylum and lobsters and shrimp are in the crustacean subphylum, so they're not exactly the same.

    Lobsters and shrimp lack a consolidated thorax, and insects lack Biramous legs.

  • $park¥||

    Nothing you can say is going to make me want to eat ocean bugs. You like em, you eat em.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    By that logic you shouldn't eat squirrels either since they're rats with bushy tails.

  • cavalier973||

    And?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Tree rat stew!

  • $park¥||

    Uh, OK. I'll do my absolute best to avoid eating any rodents as well. Going on 40 years of success so far.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    It should be noted that from a taxonomic standpoind, a cow is more closesly related to a rat than a lobster is to a cockroach.

  • Rasilio||

    Lol check out the FDA guidelines on rodent parts in processed foods and get back with us.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Uh, OK. I'll do my absolute best to avoid eating any rodents as well. Going on 40 years of success so far.

    Around here, if I didn't kill squirrels I'd never get the first nut or tomato out of the garden.

  • $park¥||

    Around here, if I didn't kill squirrels I'd never get the first nut or tomato out of the garden.

    Do you eat them after you kill them?

  • Matrix||

    don't eat fish. They're seakittens!

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Now I'm hungry for landtrout again.

  • ||

    Id' eat a rat before I'd eat a grasshopper.

  • ||

    How about freshwater mud bugs? Mmmmmm crawfish.

  • PapayaSF||

    In early colonial times, lobsters were considered a sort of trash fish that nobody wanted, and were fed to prisoners.

  • sarcasmic||

    Round here they say that prisoners rioted after being fed lobster all the time to the point where there's a law on the books saying they can't serve it more than three times a week, but upon further research it appears to be an urban legend.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I read that post, and in my head it all sounded like' "Pepperidge Faahhms remembaahhs."

  • #||

    This is because lobster tastes really nasty if you cook it after its been dead for a while. They hadn't discovered yet that you need to cook it alive for it to taste good, hence why that is how they are prepared now.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Which is fucking barbaric as all the available evidence points to crustaceans feeling severe pain when boiled.

    Why they can't kill it and boil it two seconds later is beyond me.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    A good chef will kill it first, actually. Boiling lobsters alive produces stress chemicals that will taint the meat. If you stab it in the head with a knife to destroy the brain before cooking it, you get better results.

  • Hyperion||

    Not saying we should get rid of stakes

    I'm not giving up steaks. The stakes, you can have, go kill some vampires.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    A steak through the heart will kill even non-vampires, as Redd Foxx found out.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Pun accepted, eve if the saturated fat/cholesterol hypothesis did crap out.

  • Matrix||

    lobster - the cockroach of the sea

  • Pro Libertate||

    John the Baptist ate locusts and honey in the desert. So I'm seeing a new cuisine, popular with Christians, right there.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Locust is also a bean and I am told that was what John the Baptist ate. Evidently he had quite the sweet tooth.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, some have tried to rewrite the passage so that the similarly named not-insect was what he ate. This is an error. He ate the insect and some honey. Mmmmm.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    OK, whatever. It all looks like bad historical fiction to me.

  • SugarFree||

    Four of the seven species of locust in the Judean desert are kosher. 22 other times that the New Testament uses "locust" with the same word used in oldest versions of Matthew 3:4 are all contextually referring to insects.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, good point. John wasn't the only locust eater.

  • $park¥||

    When all you've got are locusts and honey, everything looks like a candy.

  • JW||

    locusts and honey

    That's how I am with gefilte fish. As long as there's enough horse radish, I'm good.

  • SweatingGin||

    Now I'm curious what differentiates kosher locusts from non-kosher. Is it just named species?
    Is there a special way of preparing or eating locusts to ensure they are kosher?

  • cavalier973||

  • Matrix||

    yeah, but, unfortunately, rabbinical authorities have declared all locusts off-limits because there is no tradition of eating them, and properly identifying them.

  • ||

    What's the difference between a kosher locust and a non-kosher locust?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Eat More Insects, Says United Nations

    It's either that or bring back DDT, right?

    And if you're farming bugs, do you have to spray to stop corn infestations?

  • PapayaSF||

    I propose that the UN lead the way by converting the UN cafeteria to an all-insect menu.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Oh look, mosquitoes in butter sauce!

  • PapayaSF||

    New York City has a lot of bedbugs, so they could kill two birds with one stone.

  • PRX||

    gagh

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    To quote famed survivalist Cody Lundin: "If you knew what was in a hot dog, you would rather eat bugs."

    A lot of the psychological revulsion could be remedied by grinding up insects into powders or pastes. When you think about it, most of the meat we eat in the West is not served in a way that evokes the image of the live animal in the eaters' minds.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    When you think about it, most of the meat we eat in the West is not served in a way that evokes the image of the live animal in the eaters' minds.

    My daughter's S.O. is a real, live military tough guy with all the "bug-eater" training, but he had never seen a large animal killed and butchered until my daughter and I showed him how. It took him some time to get used to it.

  • Brett L||

    survivalist Cody Lundin

    Is that the dude who starved to death in Alaska?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Cody Lundin is alive and well. And anyone over the age of 12 who starves to death in Alaska either has a broken leg or no clue how to get food.

  • SweatingGin||

    Insects are used in carmine dye. Used in Campari until the year they started making it be identified as an ingredient.

    Interesting to see our good friends at the Center for science in the public interest make an appearance in that article.

  • ||

    If there was a way to remove the insect's "innards" and just eat the "meat" that would probably help.

    I think the gross factor probably has a lot to do with the knoeldge that you're earing the whole thing, brains and poo included.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Our primate ancestors/relatives and many cultures around the world already eat the whole thing. Our digestive system is perfectly capable of handling whole insects.

  • prolefeed||

    I have never eaten an insect

    Unless you've never eaten any processed food containing stuff like peanut butter or flour or cornmeal or whatever, then yes you have.

    Maybe you didn't eat a WHOLE insect.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Maybe he strained out the gnat and swallowed the camel?

  • ||

    La Boqueria in Barcelona has had an insect stand for some time now. I regret to say I did not take advantage of it. I bought rabbit instead.

  • SugarFree||

    Given the severity of my allergy to shrimp, lobster, and crab, I've never tried insects when I've had the opportunity.

  • ||

    I'll remember that when I decide to poison you. Which should probably be sometime next week.

  • SugarFree||

    Gold Lobsters remove my powers permanently.

  • ||

    So they're like that chamber in the Fortress of Solitude that Superman used to remove his powers so that he could be with Lois as a normal person?

    So who is your General Zod?

  • SugarFree||

    ProLib, of course.

  • ||

    Can I be Jimmy Olsen? But gayer?

  • SugarFree||

    Yes, but only the Giant Turtle Man Jimmy Olson.

  • ||

    That's preposterous, my skin isn't nearly that green and scaly. You know what? I'm Lex Luthor instead.

  • Lord Humungus||

    you can't get much gayer than JO.

  • Tim||

    You need him like Doctor Smith needed Will Robinson.

  • JW||

    Will Robinson: Fuck Machine.

  • prolefeed||

    SF -- Sounds like you are very sensitive to iodine, which IIRC is only a problem with sea insects like the ones you've mentioned, since there is a lot of iodine in sea water.

  • SugarFree||

    I've heard this hypothesis before. The last time I had a scratch test, no one could tell me what the "shellfish" scratch test was actually composed of. I can eat all the bivalves.

    There is a long and not terribly amusing story about almost getting an IV bag of iodine hung on me which was only avoided when the nurse--who had the needle right up against my arm--suddenly asked "You're not allergic to shellfish, are you?" (The admittance form only asked about drug reactions.)

  • $park¥||

    To think that the world was within nanometers of savior.

  • SugarFree||

    You'll never be rid of me.

  • Hyperion||

    Damn, I am feeling good right now that I'm only allergic to gluten, and not to crabs and shrimp. That would suck!

  • SugarFree||

    Yeah, and it didn't develop until I was 16, so I know how delicious they all are... :-(

  • SweatingGin||

    As a motorcyclist, occasionally with a face shield up, or wearing a different style of helmet, I've eaten a lot of bugs.

  • SugarFree||

    I'm sensing a restaurant idea...

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Allergic to shellfish and a busted pancreas? Fuck, dude, I'd shut it down.

  • SugarFree||

    Don't forget the femur that got shattered by a bullet and a torn biceps tendon.

  • Nazdrakke||

    I only each radroaches, and only then when there are no Fancy Lads Snack Cakes available.

  • Tim||

    "Bad fighting, good dying. Strong Belwas hates it when they scream."

  • Hyperion||

    The UN corruptocrats can eat bugs. They can eat shit if they want.

    I'm not eating any damn bugs, fuck off, UN!

  • ||

    Umm, The head of the UN is Ban Ki-moon.

    I guarantee he already does or has eaten 번데기 (beondegi)

    An image of beondegi

    Street vendors roast it up like chestnuts, they smell ...earthy. They don't taste bad though.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Dear Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

    You first.

    Sincerely,
    Me

  • ||

    This.

  • ||

    "Where is liver and onions? Strong Belwas is not so strong as before, he must eat, get big again. They made strong Belwas sick. Someone must die."

  • ||

    I would have figured you'd identify with Strong Belwas.

  • SugarFree||

    He is Strong Belwas. He pooped in the direction of the slave city Milwaukee just the other day.

  • ||

  • ||

    I ate several different cooked bugs in south-east asia. The grubs and flying-ants were pretty good when cooked and spiced well. The real problem is the texture not the taste.

  • cavalier973||

    I remember reading a short story when I was in elementary school (back in the mid-eighties) about a guy who finds a time machine and travels back to the twentieth century. One of the things mentioned is that future boy eats grasshoppers, and how he looks down on 20th century folk for eating beef instead, based on the relative protein content. It made me angry, because I recognized that the idiot author was pushing an agenda of some sort, because there's no way that grasshoppers can ever be made to taste as good as steak, hamburger, and the dreaded hot dog.

  • ||

    Eating too much protein without getting enough fat gives you the shits. Enjoy your watery shits, future-boy.

  • SugarFree||

    Watery Shits Future-Boy: A Warty Hugeman Time Travel Adventure

    Chapter One

    "I just bought these shoes, you little fuck," Warty bellowed. He bellowed everything he said while in the future. Future humans had evolved to have numerous tiny eardrums all over their nipples. Men and women both wore soundproof bras.

    The boy from the future looked at Warty blankly. He was dumbly chewing on a mouthful of future bugs that might have also come from outer space or something when Warty arrived from 2236, the most fashionable all years in all of human existence. Even more fashionable than the 2480s, when humans were beautiful floating bearopotami that wore space gowns of space silk woven by space arachnids from beyond Pluto's misshapen moon. When Warty materialized in front of him, the boy from the future had let out a stream of watery shit in his fright.

    Warty backhanded the boy from the future and said, "I'm going to call you Watery Shits Future-Boy and name the future novel I will write about you in the past the same thing." The boy shit some more and ran away.

    Warty returned to his underwater tomb in the past and began writing.

    THE END

  • ||

    This story is better than anything James Joyce has ever written. Also, it could use some Cybernetic Ghosts of Christmas Past from the Future.

  • ||

    What about some kind of bowl that controls the weather while people are taking their watery shits? I would like to read 7000 pages about looking for that fucking bowl, I think.

  • ||

    (backhands Warty scornfully)

    Shut up, Constipated Past-Ape. I have not deemed WoT references as being acceptable today.

  • ||

    *twists Epi's braid scornfully*

  • Pro Libertate||

    I agree. Better than Joyce!

  • ||

    We all knew deep down that the future would be filled with watery shits and scornful backhands.

  • cavalier973||

    You know, the UN is supposed to prevent war and stuff, but if they push this too hard, then the only conclusion a rational person can come to is that they are trying to provoke world revolution.

  • cavalier973||

    "What's that over there, Jeb?"

    "Looks like a passel of bug-eaters. Hand me another grenade."

  • PapayaSF||

    And the insects will side with those who don't eat them.

  • ||

    Egg 'em, bread 'em, drop 'em in Crisco. It's all good.

  • Voros McCracken||

    If someone doesn't want to eat insects, why do they have to explain themselves to anybody as to what their reason is?

  • OldMexican||

    I suspect it will be a while before the American public embraces insects into their cuisine in enough quantity to significantly change our levels of pollution.


    Not if PETA has a say in it.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    lol, "ant" nothing better than fried insects, it doesn't "bug" me at all, but with other people, that sort of thing won't "fly."

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Ooh, and did you see what Katy did with the ladybugs? Tasty!

  • ||

    In the bug eating future, will fetishists look at porn consisting of naked women with bugs crawling aall over them?

  • Rasilio||

    I have never eaten an insect (apart from that one ant as a toddler and the occasional suicidal bug that decides to fly into my mouth), but it seems to me that there are some good nutritional and environmental reasons why it would be a good thing if we ate more insects. Plus, a growing insect farming sector could benefit our economy.

    This sounds like it should have come from the NYT and not a reputable journal like Reason, 2 major fails in 1 paragraph.

    First, yes you have eaten hundreds of insects because every processed food in existence, and that includes simple wheat flour contains the remnants of bugs unlucky enough to be caught in the machinery ground up within it.

    Second and more importantly.

    No a bug farming sector cannot help the US economy in any meaningful way. All it would do is replace existing food production techniques with a newer different one which could only be at best a marginal improvement in efficiency over existing ones. It may (or may not) offer benefits of other sorts, for example limiting pollution or cutting down on greenhouse emissions, but from an economic standpoint we already produce far more food than we need or want and switching from cattle to cicadas will not open any new markets or create any new demand it will merely change the structure of production

  • Stormy Dragon||

    No a bug farming sector cannot help the US economy in any meaningful way. All it would do is replace existing food production techniques with a newer different one which could only be at best a marginal improvement in efficiency over existing ones.

    Aren't marginal improvements in efficiency over existing ones petty much the definition of economic growth?

  • Rasilio||

    Yes but in this case the growth is purely a best case scenario and would be so small as to be unmeasurable when compared to the totality of the US Economy.

    You are basically talking about a very small improvement in the efficiency of 1 component of the food sector of the economy that will take decades to realize and be partially offset by the dislocation of the existing Mammal based agriculture assets.

    None of which should be taken to be an argument against eating bugs for food, just stating that the economic gains from such a move are not significant enough to sell as an actual benefit of the move.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    I read somewhere that it takes 10x as much water to raise a pound of beef compared to a pound of roachmeat.

  • glent||

    Termites taste like wood! Big surprise, huh? www.radicalsabbaticalbook.com

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