The first time I wrote about eating insects, I mentioned that despite how sustainable eating bugs for protein might be, I wasn’t going to put a cricket in my mouth.
This past weekend, I intentionally ate a cricket.
A student organization from Stockton College set up a booth at Greenfest Philly to promote entomophagy, the practice of eating bugs. They brought culinary insects, in the form of crickets, to entice the festival’s sustainable-minded attendees to eat bugs. The organization is a chapter of EDIBL Nation. EDIBL stands for Environmental Discourses on the Ingestion of Bugs League.
I approached EDIBL’s booth determined to eat a bug. I had made up my mind before going to the festival that I was finally going to do it. I walked up, introduced myself to Timothy Herbute, a sophomore at Stockton and the president of the schools EDIBL chapter, and declared my intention. Still, it was not easy for me to put the cracker topped with a honey-slathered roasted cricket in my mouth.
But there were cameras on me – Herbute’s and mine – and to back out would have been cowardly and embarrassing. So I did it. I put the entire cracker, cricket and all, into my mouth. That's me pictured at left, with my nose crinkled a bit, getting ready to eat little Jiminy.
How did it taste? Like honey and a cracker. I didn’t taste the cricket. And at first, I didn’t detect the cricket, but then the cracker dissolved and I was left chewing on it. You know that chewy sensation you get when you’re eating something like a Milk Dud, and it gets stuck in your molar and you have to scoop it out with your tongue? It was kind of like that. Except it wasn’t a Milk Dud; it was a bug.
“I’m chewing on a bug,” I thought, and I started to hear Ellen DeGeneres’ voice say over and over, “Just keep chewing. Just keep chewing.” Eventually, I swallowed.
At no point during the experience did my gag reflex kick in, so I’m calling it a win. I ate my first bug without embarrassing myself. Will I eat another bug? I think I will.
When I mentioned my bug-eating adventure on Facebook, MNN’s lifestyle blogger Starre, who is no stranger to snacking on crickets, mentioned that she sees “no difference between eating insects and eating the 'insects of the sea' (which look the same and behave the same, just in the water), like shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans.”
Bugs are similar to crustaceans, so much so that there was a sign on the EDIBL table that warned those with shellfish or chitin allergies that they may also be allergic to the exoskeleton of a bug. Those without allergies might want to consider giving bugs a chance, though, because as Herbute explained to me, there are health and environmental benefits to eating bugs.
“The health benefits of eating insects are great,” he said, “They are high in protein, iron, zinc, and other necessary nutrients. This works in conjunction with the environmental benefits. Insects can be raised in very small spaces, and they have a smaller ecological footprint. They don't produce as much gas or organic waste.”
Herbute also mentioned how the consumption of bugs can help with feeding a growing world population. Bugs provide “more food sources while dedicating less land to creating them and reduce the emission of methane into the environment.” Another environmental benefit of eating bugs is that it can be used to help control insect populations.
The EDIBL club at Stockton participates in environmentally themed events, spreading the message of the benefits of entomophagy while trying to reduce the stigma associated with insects.
“They’re more than pests,” says Herbute. “They are an essential part of our ecosystem and most likely the food of the future. Many parts of the world have already embraced insects as the food of the future. North America is one of the few places that still have a very strong taboo associated with insects.”
I found this to be true when after learning about my adventures in bug eating over the weekend, a Taiwanese friend offered to prepare a meal for me using food-grade bugs. I’m still debating whether to take her up on her offer, but if I do, I’ll contact EDIBL to find out where to source the insects.
“The source of the edible insects is extremely important,” says Herbute. “Everything from how they are raised to how they are killed and prepared is important in ensuring the safety of those involved.”
He says that insects picked up off the ground could be poisonous or have come in contact with pesticides or other contaminates. EDIBL advocates getting bugs from places that specialize in culinary insects.
Anyone can email EDIBL at email@example.com about coming to or hosting events. If you aren’t in the New Jersey region, someone should be able to put you into contact with another EDIBL chapter.
What do you think? Would you have eaten the cricket at the festival? And, should I take my friend up on a homemade insect dinner?
Related on MNN:
- Eating insects: Vegans and vegetarians weigh in
- Flour from grasshoppers? Students awarded $1M to fight global hunger with insects
- What are the best sources of protein?