Will Insects Become Part Of Your Diet?

dtrammel's picture

Industries who produce our meats are increasingly turning to insects to feed their livestock.


How soon will such protein make its way into our normal diet?

Magpie's picture

As an entomologist, I've perhaps had a more permissive environment to experiment and share insect foods than others here. There are a bunch of ways to prepare different insects, and some of them are very good. My favorite so far is roasted cicadas, which have a distinct nutty flavor.

If you catch them from the wild, though, they are very labor intensive as a protein source--you need a ton to make a dish. My new location has a million crickets, though, so I might try next summer. Farm-raised insects tend to have less protein, less micronutrients and more fat. I've dissected a domestic cricket and couldn't see its internal organs due to all the yellow grease!

dtrammel's picture

I hadn't considered that a domestic insect rancher, would do the same thing other food animal ranchers, like beef, pork and chicken and that is tailor the animal's food to optimize their size and weight. BigAg raised meat is often less nutritious and laced with chemicals like antibiotics and steroids. Given the shorter growth period with insects I wonder if they would retain such chemicals in greater levels or flush them out quicker?

As for home grown insects, I would consider them as a protein extender and supplement for various essential vitamins and minerals, much like I do with my Purslane plants in my garden. I add a handful of leaves and stems to many of my dishes since it is so highly nutritious and so plentiful from even just a few plants.

Magpie's picture

The thing I would worry about is mostly that the insects would not be as nutritious as their wild counterparts. Additionally, some insects, such as crickets, are raised on human-consumable feed, which is less than ideal from an efficiency standpoint. Other insects, like maggots, are raised from waste material, but are not ideal for eating--these are currently being sold as livestock feed, though, which is interesting.

Regarding contaminants, smaller, shorter-lived animals that are lower on the food chain have less time and ability to bioaccumulate various toxins

Alacrates's picture

I don't know a lot about it. Someone in the local Transition group wanted to start growing mealworms, we had a meeting, but nothing much came of the plan.

I did get a book called "Eat the Beetles!" by David Waltner-Towes that looks at the history of humans eating insects and I plan to read up on it.

I was reading a book on memory systems in oral cultures, and I was surprised by how often the thing to be remembered was something like where to find the larvae of a certain insect, or what time of year it is best to eat it, so as to get a good amount of protein, but at the same time not to damage the growth of that insect population too much. It really struck me as how far back our relation to insects as foods goes - I guess to primates pinching insects, or poking a stick into an ant hole to pull out and eat (saw that in a documentary.)

I can kind of picture kind of dish where dried grains and legumes are combined to make a complete protein, topped with some local greens and vegetables, and some roasted insects of some kind tossed through the mix to add some animal (?) fats and proteins to the mix? And some sort of spicy sauce to make it all more palatable.

Serinde's picture

Not if I can help it!