Entomophagy: Trying the Bug Lifeby Don Lacey on May. 24, 2012, under Art & Culture, Critical Thinking, Economics, Education, Environment, Ethics, Freethougth Quotations, History, Logic, Science, That's Life!
An opinion from Jim Wilson:
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. -Matthew 3:4
“I’d rather eat a big old bug! Than ever take a stupid drug!” -1998, anti-drug public service announcement
Industrial meat production is environmentally destructive, horribly cruel to the animals, unsanitary, a source of noxious odors, and highly inefficient. I have seen the environmental destruction that large scale hog facilities do to both air and water quality. I have heard countless stories of the livestock being over crowed, unable to move, and subject to painful body modifications. A Google search and will tell you that it takes around estimated 7 to 15 pounds of grain to produce a single pound of beef. Much of this grain of course is produced through agricultural systems which involve large supplies of chemicals including fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. It is time for to look for alternatives to the typical American diet.
The pros and cons of vegetarianism and veganism are well understood and I do not wish to explore those options here. We could eat more wild meat which can be a very positive thing since there are many places in the country where deer and other herbivores are in need of population control since we’ve killed off the natural, native predators. However, we wouldn’t be able to feed our large population with wild meat and sadly many do not have the time or ability to go to America’s wild lands and hunt or fish and there are those who simply do not want hunt or fish and find the killing of sentient beings objectionable.
There exists a very practical solution: Entomophagy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entomophagy), the practice of eating insects as food. Insects have long been a major part of the human diet, and they are an excellent source of protein. While eating ants and beetles has become taboo in much of the western world, it is still a common practice in many parts of Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Entomophagy has been documented in 80% of the world’s nations. There are currently 1,417 known species of arthropods edible to humans, making for endless variety. These include not only insects but arachnids and myriapods, the group that includes centipedes and millipedes.
Crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, ants, various beetle grubs, caterpillars, and tarantula’s are common snack foods around the world. For example, Algerians collect desert locust, cook them with salt and water, and dry them in the sun. Australian Aborigines use Bogong moths (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogong_moth) to make into cakes. They also use Witchetty (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchetty_grub) grubs, for a snack that has be compared to almonds. The Japanese still use a number of insects including Silk moths, after they have passed the stage of producing silk, as food. Roasted crickets and grasshoppers are eaten in much of Africa, and I have been told, that fried or chocolate covered ants are eaten in a manner similar to pop corn in several places.
These are a good source, of Iron, Calcium, unsaturated fats, lysine, and many vitamins and minerals. They are also a much more efficient source of these nutrients than the meat of larger livestock. Mammals use a lot of what they eat to keep themselves warm and only around 10% of what cattle consume become parts of their bodies. With insects the range is 20-40% depending on the species. A study with house crickets found them to be 2 to 6 times as efficient as various forms of traditional food animals. They also, have the advantage of reproducing much faster. They require less space, food, and water than traditional livestock. These factors give insects food conversion efficiency nearly 20 times higher than beef.
Entomophagy, has gotten some exposure in recent years on reality TV but not in an appealing light. There are events, however, where people with much more sophisticated cooking backgrounds produce accessible insect based food. In any case the food production processes inevitably results in insects into our food and we have all ingested countless insect parts without realizing or ill effect. The USDA currently allows an average of 150 or more insect fragments per 100 grams of wheat flower.
One last thing, insect consumption is far more ethical than that of other animals in that you are not killing creatures with sophisticated brains or high levels self awareness. Contrast that to the common pigs which apparently are more intelligent than our dogs. Insects lack sophisticated mental hardware and there is little remorse associated with eating them, swatting them, or seeing them die. In that way they are a much more humane food choice than our cattle, lambs, chickens or pigs. You can expect that in this era of communication and epicurean adventurism, there will be many new and exciting dishes featuring them coming soon.