Shailene Woodley, my favorite nature-loving, clay-eating, shampoo-avoiding Hollywood actress is back on the media circuit for her new thriller "Insurgent." And once again, she's challenging cultural and social norms by revealing some personal beliefs that, for some, are a bit hard to swallow.
"I’ve eaten ants and that was great," the star told Nylon magazine after being asked the strangest food she's ever tried. "And June bugs, that was great. I think the future of food is in insects, so we’ll see what happens."
The future of food?! Is Woodley crazy? Many in the world of social media seemed to think so.
While I'll be the first to admit that the thought of eating insects doesn't make my mouth water, Woodley's prediction is a lot more grounded in reality than many would believe. As recently as 2013, the United Nations issued a report advocating insect farming as an easy solution to mitigate the planet's growing food crisis. Not only are insects such as crickets as nutritious or more than their traditional meat counterparts, but because they're cold-blooded, they're also more efficient to farm.
"They can make about 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of insect meat for every 2 kg of feed, while cows need 8 kg (17.6 lbs.) of feed just to make 1 kg of beef," writes MNN's Russell McLendon. Insects also require less water, less land, and produce less waste. In fact, as McLendon adds, certain species can help break down waste and return nutrients to the soil.
I could also tell you that some 2 billion people worldwide already consume insects as part of their regular diet. Or that there are 1,900 documented edible species, with the most popular being grasshoppers, ants, beetles, crickets and mealworms. But I completely get that there's a huge mental shift needed to get on board with any of this. The thing is, it's almost certainly going to happen. There's just not enough natural resources to sustain the factory farming of traditional animals, and with the planet playing host to an estimated 9 billion people by 2050, we're simply going to have to get over our aversion to trying new things.
“All you have to do is break the mental block,” Harman Johar, an entrepreneur who has launched a mealworm startup in the U.S. “Once you do that, you’ll not only get accustomed to eating bugs, you’ll get hooked.”
Maybe with the right marketing and presentation, grasshoppers and crickets could replace cattle and pigs as our main sources of meat. I mean, is it really that far of a leap from this widely-consumed species?
So let's all keep an open mind on this whole insect-eating thing, okay? I'm with you that it doesn't sound like the most yummy option, but then again, I would never guess based on looks alone that I would ever eat a shrimp. Perhaps roasted June bugs would be just as tasty (and a whole lot better for the planet).
Related on MNN:
- Insects: The new protein source?
- 10 of the largest insects in the world
- Are you ready to eat at the bug buffet?