The idea of eating insects to help solve world hunger seems like an interesting theory. Requiring less water and land to raise, while having much of the same amount of protein gram-for-gram, and packed with vitamins, fibers and healthy fats, the consumption of insects (or entomophagy) has recently been studied by the United Nations as one possible solution for ending global hunger.
Though it's not uncommon to snack on insects in some places, there are still barriers like cultural perceptions in the western world. But pro-entomophagy American student Camren Brantley-Rios of Auburn University is hoping to change that: last month, he "decided to put [his] money where his mouth is" and began a 30-day insect-eating challenge to help raise awareness about how insects can be part of a sustainable diet, and delicious too (Katherine covered the debut of this experiment here). Check out this video news report on his project (and try to not be swayed by the news anchors' somewhat prejudiced reactions):
He says on his blog, 30 Days of Bugs, which documents his insect-supplemented meals, that the key is to change these relatively arbitrary perceptions:
Not so long ago, Westerners felt the same way about sushi. In the 70s, Americans couldn’t fathom the idea of eating raw fish and seaweed. Chef Hidekazu Tojo helped Westerners overcome this cultural barrier when he invented the California roll. In 1981, the New York Times even published an article about our rising acceptance of sushi. Back then, that was news.
Trends don’t just happen in fashion. They happen in food too. Heck, lobster used to be eaten only by prisoners and poor people. Now, there are restaurants that charge hundreds of dollars for lobster dishes.
As Marcel Dicke said, all we have to do is look at insects as “shrimp of the land.”
What is great is the open-mindedness and support that Brantley-Rios has encountered from family, friends, co-workers, many of whom have tried his mealworm pizzas, cricket omelettes, cricket flour cookies and cricket smoothies.
As Brantley-Rios stresses, one does not (and should not) have to forage in the forest or soil to find edible bugs; there are companies online that sell organically-fed insects and even companies that specialize in insect-based products, like Bitty Foods, which sells cricket flour. It's all about showing how eating insects is no big deal, and how important it is to have an open mind, as Brantley-Rios explains to BBC:
I'm mainly sticking to three species. Mealworms, waxworms and crickets. Those are definitely the bulk of my diet. But I'm trying here and there to incorporate things a little bit more exotic. There are over a thousand edible insects with unique flavors and in infinite number of ways to prepare them. [So] why not try something new?
Brantley-Rios points out though, that eating insects everyday for three meals may currently be impractical, due to shipping costs; he hopes it will change in the future when markets will sell insect-based products and restaurants integrate them into dishes. People might grow them at home too. In the meantime, now that his challenge is over, he says he will continue to eat insects. Check out more over at 30 Days of Bugs and BBC.