How about some bugs for dinner – fried grasshopper, crunchy crickets, and marina worm spaghetti?
The idea might cause most of us to turn up our noses, but for early humans insects may have been an important source of proteins. Researchers at Rutgers University and Kent State University have discovered that almost all primates have the DNA necessary to produce stomach enzymes that allows us to breakdown insect exoskeletons. Over generations we have evolved along with our food only. Early primates, however, had several more genes that could make the enzymes, which indicates that they probable ate a lot of them.
As crazy (and disgusting) as that sounds, eating bugs is actually quite common in other parts of the world.
As my friends over at Dirt to Dinner have discovered, insects are actually a great source of protein. In fact, some are packed with micronutrients and all 9 essential amino acids. Bugs are also a sustainable way to “provide a nutrient dense food to a growing population— without using excess water, land, feed, or energy.” Entomo Farms, which produces crickets for food, estimates that if every family of of 4 switched out one meal to insect protein, it would save 2,749,500 8oz glasses of water per year. With the population of the Earth growing exponentially, bugs could become an interesting solution to meeting the world’s food demands.
The idea, at least in theory, makes sense. Bugs don’t take up a lot of room, so an acre could produce quite a large number of them. Bugs don’t really require a lot of water, so it could reduce our water usage. Bugs probably also don’t need a lot of attention and grooming, so it wouldn’t be labor intensive. Obviously, using insecticides and other pesticides would completely defeat the purpose, so we would have to rely on less chemical inputs.
But I’m not so excited about the idea (or brave enough to join the Dirt to Dinner staff in trying some insect delicacies).
Admittedly, this is probably more of a cultural thing. I don’t find eating bugs appeasing because I’ve never viewed them as food, only creepy crawlers. For people raised to view insects as a snack, it is probably easier to digest. However, this cultural reality is likely the biggest obstacle for bug farms going mainstream. In fact, we see that as countries develop and citizens earn more money, they tend to add more meat to their diets. China is a prime example, with the USDA predicting the country’s meat consumption (and production) will increase over the next decade.
Nonetheless, finding out more about our ancient ancestors through our DNA is interesting, and perhaps provides us with new opportunities for meeting increasing food demands.
I, however, will stick to beef, chicken, and pork, thank you very much.