Eating bugs, while it sounds very strange, has a lot of benefits and is quite common in many cultures. Bugs have been consumed for centuries, and they filled the role of both a staple food and a delicacy. Cultures from ancient Greece and Rome all the way to present-day countries in the tropics like Cambodia and Mexico included bugs in their diets. Nearly two thousand different species of insects are being eaten today, and they hold an important role in the diets of nearly two billion people. Bugs are commonly eaten as a meal, but they can also be ground into a flour, powder, or paste that can be added to food.
So why do bugs gross us out? As agriculture spread, the hunter-gatherer practices of eating bugs dwindled and bugs continually began to be seen as pests that destroyed crops, instead of plentiful food sources that could greatly benefit humans. As people urbanized, these practices were further distanced as many bugs were not able to survive in these urban areas and cities started importing more and more food. Today, we are so distanced from our bug-eating traditions that the ick-factor of just thinking about eating them can overwhelm us.
These bugs are not only tasty when cooked correctly, but they are very healthy. These insects contain up to 80% protein and also have high levels of energy-rich fat and fiber, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Most edible insects contain the same amount or more mineral iron than beef, making them a huge untapped resource for solving iron deficiency problems as well as fighting climate change by steering away from beef. These bugs are also incredibly easy to farm and are very cost-effective. What you lose from the ick-factor of eating these bugs, you gain back in nutrition, taste, and a smaller environmental impact.
Looking deeper into the environmental benefits of bugs shows their true potential. Bugs can be farmed or foraged, and they emit way fewer greenhouse gasses than cows. The process of farming these bugs also uses far less water, space, and food that livestock farms. These bugs can be much healthier than beef while having a smaller environmental impact. Since these farms are small scale, highly productive, and relatively inexpensive, they could also uplift people in developing countries and help economies grow.
When you get bugs, don’t be turned away after trying one thing. I recently tried some crickets from a company I hadn’t tried before, and I absolutely hated them. Since I had had crickets before, I knew that they could be better and that I just didn’t like that company’s product, not the bug itself. Also, don’t be afraid to try different bugs. If you hate the crunch of the shells and the awkward feeling of the legs in your teeth, try a meatier bug. There will be a bug out there that you like, you just have to be persistent in finding it.
These are some cooked crickets.