Eating Insects for Food: Why We Need to Rethink our Eating Habits

Have you ever considered eating insects for food? The thought kind of grosses you out, doesn’t it? The other day I was arguing with a vegan who insisted that the only way to truly go green was to be vegan. She insisted that nothing else you did mattered one bit to your carbon footprint if you ate any meat products at all. Personally, I think that is the kind of attitude that prevents people from taking any baby steps at all on the road to green living. Many recent articles indicate that veganism may actually be harder on the environment than a diet that consists of animal products. As long as those animal products are sustainably raised, locally sourced, and a limited part of your diet. When I started digging into research to support my argument, I came across numerous articles about eating insects for food that I thought were fascinating if slightly disgusting sounding!

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Eating Insects for Food:  A Gross but Green Eating Habit

Eating Insects for Food: A Gross but Green Eating Habit

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Over the last few years, I have started trying to alter my eating habits to include less animal protein. After doing research on animals raised using conventional farming methods, I decided that for both ethical and health related reasons I would try very hard to not support large scale animal farms. There are numerous reasons to avoid feed lot meats and many green gurus suggest that the raising of animals for protein at all is destroying our environment. There are issues involving runoff and pollution of waterways, greenhouse gases, and the question of whether or not it is efficient to feed animals only to in turn slaughter them to feed humans. A United Nations report released in 2006 identifies the livestock sector as “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems” Don’t want to give up animal products? What if there was a protein source that created almost no greenhouse gases, required no fertilizers or pesticides, needed very little space or water to be raised, and was already being eaten by 80% of the human population? Curious?

Eating Insects for Food: A Gross but Green Eating Habit

Entomophagy is the practice of eating insects and as unappealing as it may seem to you and I, it is a common practice among many people in the world. Approximately 2000 species of bugs are know to be consumed worldwide, some of which are found in nature and others that are actually raised specifically for consumption. Some are eaten raw and others are cooked, dried, or canned. All insects are relatively high in protein and larvae such as grubs and pupae are usually high in both protein and fat. When you look at the nutritional profile of insects, it is clear that they are an excellent source of food if we could just get over the ‘ick’ factor!

 

So, nutritionally it seems like bugs are a perfect food source, right? How about their impact on the environment? Insects require very little water, space, or food compared to raising traditional food animals. 869 gallons of water are used to create the beef needed for one hamburger. A giant container of crickets, however, just needs a slightly damp paper towel on the bottom of their habitat. Tons of protein, low in fat, and virtually no water consumption. Just what a hungry human needs, right? Personally, I think I would go vegan before eating crickets, to heck with the health of the planet. That doesn’t make me a very good environmentalist but could I actually put bugs in my mouth on purpose?

Think about This: According to Audubon magazine, the Earth’s population will grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050. At our current rate of food consumption, we will need to produce 70% more animal protein in that time to keep up with demand.

Eating Insects for Food: A Gross but Green Eating Habit

Do I expect everyone to run out and start raising their own crickets? No. However, I hope you start to consider the impact your nutritional choices have on our environment. Instead of offering every member of the household a steak, slice up ONE steak into a stirfry and serve the whole family with less meat. Choose sustainably raised meats, reduce your serving size, and pick one or two nights a week to skip meat entirely. Or, maybe you can whip up a Bee-LT Sandwich for lunch one day! If society does not begin to change their eating habits NOW, we may be nibbling on meal worms 50 years from now.

If you are feeling adventurous and find yourself in New York, you may want to check out Gastronauts, a club for adventurous eaters! You can sample things like the giant water bug, a three-inch-long South Asian insect that looks somewhat like a cockroach. There are numerous online sources for purchasing bugs if you decide you want to be a little adventurous in the kitchen. Amazon also carries several books that discuss the hows and whys of entomophagy. Check out Girl Meets Bug for a list of edible insects.

Have you ever tried eating insects for food?

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Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke!

Comments

  1. Joyness Sparkles says:
    We are vegand AND kosher...that is a double whammy for NO BUGS. :) However, for people that do eat animal protein and are not under kosher dietary rules, this is an excellent option! Great post!
    • I'm not quite sure I could make myself do it, although my son was telling me all about cricket flour the other day. Maybe if it was ground up like that and I didn't know it was in there!
  2. Carrie Phelps says:
    Interesting but I can't imagine a meal to include insects of any sort. But I do agree with you on animal farming, it's a horrible thing no matter how you look at it. For me I would just skip the steak & enjoy a can of beans of any sort ( perhaps black beans, kidney beans or chickpeas!) in a dish for added protein.
    • We try hard to minimize the meat content of our meals and use grains and produce to fill us up. It's hard when you have active and hungry teens!
  3. Oh my. That is so interesting about the nutritional content of insects. And the photo is quite graphic. But I just don't think I can go there. We lived in Africa for many years and ate quite a few strange things, but I never looked into their nutrition! LOL.

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