The Future of Edible Insects Depends on Kids

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©. K Martinko

Once convinced that eating insects is healthy, tasty, and cool, kids will be the most effective ambassadors for the industry.

Arachnophobes, be warned! A new video made by Project Explorer features people chowing down on deep-fried tarantulas in Cambodia, one crispy leg at a time. There are some crickets, mealworms, and cockroaches thrown in there as well, but somehow, they pale in comparison to the tarantulas. The video, which was screened at the Brooklyn Bug Festival this past summer and will be shown in classrooms around the United States, is part of a push to get kids interested in eating insects.

Why? Because marketers know that if kids can be convinced eating insects is a good idea, it bodes well for the entire edible insect industry. The younger generation will grow up into bug-eating adults while influencing peers and family members to do the same.

Kids, for all their stubborn little food-related quirks, are surprisingly open to ideas that might horrify their parents. (Who knew?) They are also more tuned-in to environmental issues these days than in the past. NPR's The Salt cites a 2013 study that found:

"[Children] have a deeper concern for following environmental rules (such as not carving names into trees or not stepping on flowers) than for following social rules (such as not picking your nose or being a messy eater). This could conceivably manifest in kids not only wanting to protect the natural world but also being able to ignore stigmas — even in the kitchen — that would thwart conservation efforts."

This is why the Brooklyn Bug Festival featured an all-day children's education program, with a 'petting zoo' (picture writhing mealworms in your hand) and cricket samples. One father tried the crickets only because his daughter made him -- then he ended up buying some to take home because they were so good. David George Gordon, author of The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook, says events like this are a great way to engage parents, since "adults are skeptical [about eating bugs and] kids are so receptive to trying them."

The Project Explorer video (shown below) will work in the same way, convincing kids that insect-eating is normal for 2 billion people worldwide, so there's no reason why we shouldn't accept it here. It teaches kids about the environmental repercussions of raising large animals for human consumption, the impressive nutritional profile of insects, and the rich cultural history of entomophagy.

The more kids like the idea and the more people talk about it, try it, and see it, the more quickly insects will enter the North American consciousness. And, considering the current state of industrial-style meat production, the transition to accepting edible insects can't come soon enough.