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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!
Eating Insects for Food: A Gross but Green Eating Habit
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?
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.
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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?
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire and has worked 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 and freelance writing to share this knowledge with others. Learn more about her HERE.