5 Things That Convinced Me to Try Insects
I used to think eating insects (entomophagy) was just for deserted islanders and primitive cultures. Here is why I changed my mind and took a bite.
This is a post about being wrong.
About totally misjudging something and being completely blown away when finally giving it a chance.
It is about how going against something my culture defines as ‘strange’- and pushing myself to briefly be uncomfortable- allowed me to discover a completely new (and exciting) culinary experience.
If you’re in the same boat — that is, curious about a new, delicious, healthy, and sustainable protein source but not really sure how to convince yourself to give it a shot — then this post is for you.
** Disclaimer, I will be using the terms ‘insects’ and ‘bugs’ to reference all edible invertebrates in this article even though there are significant differences between the groups. This article is meant more so to spark curiosity as it is a biology lesson. Thank you for the understanding and slack**
5 Reasons Why I Never Ate Insects Before
Looking back on these reasons, I can see where culture and misinformation molded my perception of entomophagy. Some are based on fear; but most are just ignorance.
1. Only deserted islanders and primitive tribesmen eat insects.
Eating insects in the States has always been associated with episodes from Survivor or a cultural documentary on Nat Geo.
It’s taboo and disgusting. Only a last resort food option, right?
2. Insects are dirty, diseased, and originate from the muck of the Earth.
When I first thought of the possibility of eating insects, my mind went straight to roaches scurry scurry across a grimy floor in an episode of Hoarders. NOPE.
What I later found out was the art of ‘microfarming’ (I will go into this later, but just know that it is awesome)- and what our traditional protein sources are made of- will completely change your perspective.
3. They are considered pests and contaminants.
Growing up I can still remember my mom screaming in horror when she found weevils in the flour or ants in the sugar bowl. Throwing out the tainted ingredients with disappointment and disgust.
If the Food & Drug Association (FDA) has regulations against how many insect parts should be allowed in our packaging, then why would I want to increase the amount of ‘contaminants’ I consume intentionally? In addition to trying to keep them out of our processed foods, US spends billions of dollars every year preventing insects from destroying our crops.
Again, why should we be willing to excitedly consume them? Just wait.
4. They taste awful.
Have you seen fear factor?
I can still remember the very first episode I watched of ‘Fear Factor’ where they had to spin wheel of disgusting ingredients to make a gut wrenching cocktail to drink and, more importantly, keep down.
Worms, scorpions, and some other creeping critters are usually a part of the menu.
Their faces and suppressed heaves were all I needed to see to know that eating insets was a choice for the adventurous and strong-stomached, not my sensitive tummy or responsive gag reflex.
It wasn’t until I decided to do some research that I discovered Fear Factor was the entomophagic version of the Blockbuster hit, Jaws- lots of drama and little fact.
5. They are just exoskeleton and guts.
No way could that be healthy for you.
Not only did insects look gross, but they didn’t look like they could offer me any nutritional benefit. How could some crunchy and squishy bits be a source of sustainable sustenance.
Again, I was very wrong. . .
Like so many in the US and Europe, the thought of eating insects was roughly on the same line as drinking one’s urine or eating a rat. It was gross, taboo, and strictly reserved for survival situations only.
However, it wasn’t until I ran across a few articles on practice of eating of insects (aka entomophagy) that I decided maybe my perception of this practice wasn’t completely wrong all along.
And after my trip to Thailand where I ‘stepped outside & adventured’ in more ways than I ever though I would, I realized EVERYTHING I knew about eating bigs was based on false assumptions and cultural taboos.
5 Reasons Why I Decided to Try Edible Insects
1. Sure survivalists and people in remote villages eat insects, but so do more than 2 billion others in the world.
According to the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations, 80% of the world’s nations consume insects as part of a traditional diet.
While the idea of eating insects may seem unusual or even unappetizing to some, it is not uncommon for some insects to me more desired than beef. Some insect meals fetching more than filet mignon, pound for pound.
Throughout history, both evolutionary and biblical, insects have been an essential food source to humans.
2. Most insects are wild harvested or farm raised, just like we harvest other forms of protein.
Organic, free ranging protein the way Mother Nature intended.
Common sense can go a long way here. Obviously one should not gather insects from places where pesticides and fertilizers are sprayed.
Farm raised insects for human consumption are typically fed produce and natural foliage.
3. We have been taught they are pests. In other cultures, they are welcomed.
In many cultures, pests that invade their crops are seen as a ‘bonus crop,’ providing extra income and/or an additional protein source for their family.
Could you imagine if we got over our taboo of eating insects and began harvesting agricultural pests instead of spending billions of dollars, and thousands of gallons of chemicals, on controlling the issue.
According to the FOA Insect Damage Report, less than 0.5 percentage of the total number of the known insect species are considered pests, and only a few of these can be a serious menace to crops. However, when chemicals are used as a preventative measure, ALL insects are affected- especially the ones beneficial to crop health.
4. INSECTS ARE DELICIOUS!
Eating bugs raw and wriggling is not recommended in the first place. Many creepy crawlers defend themselves with nasty chemicals, so of course it is recommended to cook. And very similar to other forms of protein, cooking kills any harmful bacteria or parasites that could be present.
Personally, I have only tasted a handful of species. However, the more I am experimenting, the more I am noticing that they all have a distinct flavors and textures, just like any other ingredient.
Bugs from Entomofarms are
Getting passed the fact that you are eating an insect is the hardest part. Once you can get your mind off of that and enjoy the taste, you will be pleasantly surprised.
5. They are incredibly nutritious. (Bonus: And an eco friendly protein)
Here is a great list from a leader in the edible insect realm, Entomofarms:
There are many nutritional and environmental benefits of eating insects.
High in Omegas
Rich in protein
Chock full of iron
Low in fat and calories
Long shelf life
Exponentially less taxing on agricultural resources
Exponentially less taxing on fresh water resources
Exponentially less greenhouse gases produced than livestock production
Producing insects takes less food and space than livestock production
Before I let you go, let me say that I wish everyone could experience eating their first insect cuisine outside of the USA where it is not considered any different than snacking on some jerky or crunching on an apple.
**Not having to deal with the judging looks or strange questions make the experience 1000x more fun and exciting.