Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of teaching a class through Staunton’s Parks and Recreation called Bite a Bug. Please read further about it in the Staunton Newsleader article, by Laura Peters.
The title of the class, Bite a Bug, is not a play on words… we ate bugs… Lots of bugs!! Crickets, mealworms, giant water bugs, sago worms, termites, ant eggs and shield beetles. It was a BLAST!
If were to ask you, “Hey, do you regularly eat bugs?” and you said “Nope,” you would be hugely mistaken! We all eat bugs almost every day!
The Food and Drug Administration knows it’s impossible to keep insects out of food, so it maintains “permissible degrees of insect damage and infestation”. These guidelines are more for aesthetic purposes than for health and/or safety. Check out the document, Food Defect Action Levels, unless you have an active imagination or easily-turned stomach.
Eating insects is not terrible!!
More than 80% of the world’s population eats bugs. And it’s not because they’re weird or have no other food to choose from. In a 2003 report on insects from the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations), we learn that locals of NE Thailand eat edible rainforest insects because the bugs are delicious! Not because they have no other choice or because anyone is forcing them.
Insects are highly nutrient dense! They are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. The amounts depend on the bug and what it ate, but those compact and efficient bodies really do pack a punch.
Insects are a source of sustainable protein! Since they’re exothermic, bugs don’t need to use energy to heat their bodies and all their food can go towards building mass. They have a higher Efficiency of Conversion Index (ECI) and convert vastly more of their feed to meat, as compared to cows, pigs and chickens.
The 2003 FAO report also states that, in 2050, there will be an estimated 9 billion people on Earth. To feed everyone, we will have to double our food supply. That will be extraordinarily difficult, since we’re already using 70% of our agricultural land for livestock production* and the oceans are overfished. Our only choice for protein may be to eat insects!
Lastly, the harvesting of insects is by far more humane than that of any other animal. The usual practice is to slowly chill insects until they die. They basically just fall asleep. This is much nicer than the fear, pain and near-torture that other animals undergo, especially chickens.
In conclusion, don’t be meek, eat an inseect!… But beware:
- If it’s red or yellow, it can kill a fellow (red and yellow in nature mean poison!)
- Always cook your insects (cold kills parasites, but not their eggs, and many bugs carry parasites that you don’t want to share).
- If you’re allergic to seafood, shellfish, dust or chocolate (and the venom of specific insects, like bees and wasps), do not eat bugs.
- Buy insects from Thailand Unique and Next Millennium Farms.
- Check out these books: Butterflies in My Stomach by Ronald L. Taylor, The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook by David George Gordon and Man Eating Bugs by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio
- Image used with permission by talented artist, Juan Rubio: http://www.rubiocartoons.com/2013/05/fao-encourages-people-to-consume-insects.html
*Fine print: Many people say that insects are the answer to the horrendous environmental effects imposed by livestock production… I agree with a huge qualification:
- I do not like CAFOs (concentrated agriculture feeding operations), which is the typical model followed by most mass-producing animal farms. This is definitely to the detriment of the environment, not to mention, a highly unethical way to treat animals.
- But, other farms, like Polyface Farms and Buffalo Creek Beef (carried by Donald’s Meats) do things differently and have less of an environmental impact. See this blog post for more information.
- Plus, there was once a figure floating around that said 18% of greenhouse gasses worldwide came from cow farts, but that number has been adjusted to state that all of agriculture contributes to 11%, with cattle representing only a tiny percentage.