Swansea University in the UK, is the host to this year’s Royal Entomology Society conference and one of the speakers at this year’s conference will be talking about insect protein being a solution to getting rid of famine.

On the one hand I say, “Ew.” On the other, I say, “Why not? Other people should eat bugs.” I remember watching a young Christian Bale in the film “Empire of the Sun” His character is in an internment camp, and he's told that if he wants to make it through and keep up his strength, he shouldn’t pick the bugs (I believe they were maggots) out of his food, he should eat them for the protein. It was disturbing but it made sense under the circumstances.

According to BBC News, 80 percent of the world’s population eats some sort of insect as part of their diet. I’m not in that 80 percent, and I’m a long way off from being convinced to joining it, but the facts are interesting.

Professor Arnold van Huis from Wageningen University in Belgium will be presenting the case for eating insects at the conference. He says that producing one kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of meat from a cow requires 13kg (about 28 ½ pounds) of vegetable matter as feed.

However, 1kg (about 2.2 pounds) of meat from a cricket, locust or beetle needs just 1.5 to 2kg (3.3 to 4.4 pounds) of vegetable matter as feed for the bugs. The environmental impact of raising bugs for meat protein as opposed to cow for meat protein is much less.

Those numbers are impressive, but I’m still not putting a cricket in my mouth. And, van Huis understands that most Westerners are like me in that area. Despite the fact that there is no “credible reason against eating them, taste-wise and nutritionally, there’s not difference between insect meat and that from birds, fish or mammals,” we just can’t get past the fact that in our minds insects are not food. 

So grinding insect meat into patties is one option being considered to make insects more palatable to those of us with objections to seeing whole insects on our plates. I have to wonder if van Huis got the idea from “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” when Oliver showed children exactly what gets ground up and put into chicken nuggets. The children were grossed out when they saw the process but once they saw the finished product, they wanted to eat it because it was something they were accustomed to. Could it be the same with bug burgers?


Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

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