The undeniable environmental impact of meat consumption, a rising global middle class, and projected global population growth fuel the search for a more sustainable protein source. For the last 10 years or scientists, foodies, and chefs have been exploring with fervor eating a protein source that some cultures have been eating for thousands of years - insects. In 2013 the UN FAO published Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security a report that even more legitimized the importance of considering, to put it bluntly eating bugs.
Pulling for the UN FAO report back in 2013 Jeremy Hance of Mongabay gave a nice summary of the benefits and challenges of insect consumption:
Insects are also hugely efficient: on average insects require only 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of food to produce 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of meat, while cattle requires 17.6 pounds (8 kilograms) for the same amount of meat. Perhaps most importantly insect farming would not require clearing of additional lands, which would undercut greenhouse gas emission due to deforestation, preserve threatened biodiversity, and decrease on-going land conflicts."
Despite, these benefits, the report admits that it would be difficult getting people, especially in the west, to eat insects.
While we might still turn our noses up at the thought of eating mealworms, the market for insect protein is gigantic in places like Thailand, and growing still. Here in the U.S. you may be aware of Bitty Foods the cricket meal company whose founder, Megan Miller gave an inspiring talk at last year’s TEDXManhattan and is trying to expand the market here in the U.S. The benefits are clear, its just our palettes that need convincing.
And all of this, brings us to present day at Auburn University, where student Camren Brantley-Rios is raising awareness about eating bugs through his blog 30 days of Bugs
in which he is cataloging his self imposed challenge of eating insects at every meal. Mealworm Chow Mein, Garlic Butter Cricket Scampi , Wax Worm Grilled Cheese, this guy is for real. Josh Scherer of Take Part, who interviewed Brantley-Rios, explains that his is not a PR stunt, or a dare; just an honest attempt at education.
What separates Brantley-Rios from every deliberately edgy chef selling ant-egg tacos at $6 a pop is his sincerity and simplicity. As he tells it, "I wouldn’t call myself a chef at all; it’s really just me winging it in the kitchen.“
Check out the blog. Its’ great. The pictures may be a little jarring at first, but as Brantley-Rios points out in his blog’s introduction, back in the 70’s American’s were completely grossed out by sushi, and now, it’s a high class dining experience. We applaud his revolutionary thinking.
Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security via UN Food and Agriculture Organization
Are insects the future of food? via Megan Miller at TEDxManhattan
Edible Insect Farmers In Thailand Increase Profits, Meet Growing Demand via Huffington Post
Eat insects to mitigate deforestation and climate change via Mongabay Environmental News