Eating Bugs as Food – Could Insects be Your Next Major Source of Protein?
Eating bugs as food might sound pretty gross to you but creepy crawler’s might just be your next viable source of protein as the world population explodes in the next 30+ years. Most people cringe when they see other people crunching on the little critters but insects have long been a delicacy in other countries.
If the thought of popping a few roasted cockroaches into your mouth makes you feel like puking, you’d be better off not reading the rest of this page. What you don’t know can’t hurt your eating habits! The (rodent) hair-raising truth is that 80 percent of us have already been consuming a few pounds of insects a year, unknowingly!
Eating Bugs – Not so Unusual?
Most of the world has been eating insects for some time. In Thailand and Laos for example, ant pupae are a nutritious delicacy. In New York, the Mexican restaurant Toloache, offers what they call Chapulines Tacos: two tacos stuffed with dried grasshoppers. At the London restaurant Archipelago, diners can enjoy Baby Bee Brulee: a creamy custard topped with a crunchy baby bee. In ancient Rome, Romans considered beetle larvae to be a gourmet delight. Even the Old Testament mentions eating grasshoppers and crickets. In the 20th century, the Japanese emperor Hirohito's (supposed) favorite meal was a mixture of cooked rice, canned wasps (including larvae, pupae and adults), sugar, and soy sauce.
(OK, let me run and barf!)
The World Demand
Beetles, larvae, and crickets could be the meat of the future. As the global population increases exponentially in the next 30+ years and demands strain the world's supply of meat, there will also be a need for alternate protein sources, and eating bugs may be the answer! Insects are easier to raise than livestock, and produce a lot less waste. Insects are also very abundant and reproduce quickly.
The world population is expected to be about nine billion by 2050. Meat production is expected to double during the next 40 years, as demand grows from rising wealth. Officials at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization predict that beef could become a luxury food by 2050 due to rising production costs.
Insects are likely to be mildly incorporated into dishes as a meat replacement. They can be added to meatballs and sauces or mixed into prepared foods to boost nutritional value, like putting mealworm paste into waffles. Any dry roasted insect can be used as a replacement for nuts in baked goods like cakes, cookies, and breads.
How do bugs taste? They (allegedly) have a nice nutty flavor.
Insects have been used as dye for many years. Red food dye comes from the cochineal insect and is used to dye tomato soup, imitation crab meat, and various pastries and candies.
Insects have a bad reputation for being dirty and carrying diseases, yet less than .5 percent of all known insect species are harmful to people, crops, or animals. When raised under hygienic conditions, insects are considered perfectly safe to eat.
Nutritional Information on Eating Bugs
Insects are high in protein, B vitamins and minerals like zinc and iron, and they're low fat.
You’re Already Eating Bugs
Though it is true that intentionally eating insects is common only in other countries, everyone already eats some amount of insects. The average person (unknowingly) consumes about a pound of insects a year, mostly because they're mixed into other foods. In the U.S., most processed foods contain small fragments of insects, within limits set by the Food and Drug Administration.
So common are these contaminants that the FDA has published a pamphlet detailing "Food Defect Action Levels," which were needed, (according to the FDA), " ... because it is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects."
The FDA surmises that it’s more reasonable to accept natural defects in our food in lieu of increasing the amount of pesticides sprayed on them:
"The alternative to establishing natural defect levels in some foods would be to insist on increased utilization of chemical substances to control insects, rodents and other natural contaminants. The alternative is not satisfactory because of the very real danger of exposing consumers to potential hazards from residues of these chemicals, as opposed to the aesthetically unpleasant but harmless natural and unavoidable defects."
Anyone who's ever grown a garden knows that every now and then, you find a bug in the foods you harvest that must be squashed! These insects are considered to be 'natural contaminants'. What can you say except that 'it happens'! And when you do find them, you certainly don't chop them up and mix them into your food, do you?
Eating Bugs as Food – Approved FDA Limits
Chocolate and Chocolate Liquor
Insect filth: Average is 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams when 6 100-gram subsamples are examined OR any 1 subsample contains 90 or more insect fragments.
Rodent filth: Average is 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams in 6 100-gram subsamples examined OR any 1 subsample contains 3 or more rodent hairs.
Citrus Fruit Juices, Canned
Insects and insect eggs: 5 or more Drosophila and other fly eggs per 250 ml or 1 or more maggots per 250 ml. (about one cup)
Red Fish and Ocean Perch
Parasites: 3 percent of the fillets examined contain 1 or more parasites accompanied by pus pockets.
Macaroni and Noodle Products
Insect filth: Average of 225 insect fragments or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples.
Rodent filth: Average of 4.5 rodent hairs or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples.
Insect filth: Average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams.
Rodent filth: Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams.
Rodent filth: 1 or more rodent excreta pellets are found in 1 or more subsamples, and 1 or more rodent hairs are found in 2 or more other subsamples OR 2 or more rodent hairs per pound and rodent hair is found in 50 percent or more of the subsamples OR 20 or more gnawed grains per pound and rodent hair is found in 50 percent or more of the subsamples.
Insect filth: Average of 75 or more insect fragments per 50 grams.
Rodent filth: Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 50 grams.
Can eating bugs be avoided? Probably not. You just can't outrun a train! If you knew of all the bugs you've already eaten in your life, you might feel better about all this hoopla! You literally have to take the good with the bad! If all this bugs you, try eating more fresh healthy foods instead, where you can inspect the food yourself! Processed foods are always going to contain unwanted ingredients!
Try not to think too much about eating bugs as food. Imagine it as mother nature's way of reminding us that 'it really is all good'!
Would You Eat Bugs? - Vote Here!
Eating Bugs as Food Video
Crispy Crickets Recipe
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Strip the antennae, limbs and wings (if any) from 20 to 30 clean, frozen adult crickets, or 40 to 60 cricket nymphs. Spread the stripped crickets on a lightly oiled baking sheet and place in oven. Bake until crickets are crisp, around 20 minutes. Yield: one cup.
Sprinkle these on salads or put them through a coffee grinder to turn them into bug "flour." You could even combine the crickets with Chex Mix for a protein-rich snack.