Meal Worms, Anyone?

Of all our food sources, what is the most efficient at converting carbohydrates to protein?

Not cattle, certainly. Ten pounds of feed generates one pound of beef. Plus each cow raised in the industrial system needs about 2000 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, and a single cow can produce up to 132 gallons of methane a day. Methane is twenty times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide.

Chicken? It takes ten pounds of feed to generate five pounds of chicken meat, and 468 gallons of water to produce one pound of chicken.

The most efficient protein source? And the most environmentally friendly?

Insects.

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I don’t actually know if ladybugs are edible

Ten pounds of feed produces nine pounds of cricket meat. Insects barely need water, and generate almost zero greenhouse gases. Insect meat is high in fat, which, contrary to the diet soda hype in the U.S., is critical for health. Insects reproduce rapidly, in small spaces. They can be used as food for livestock.

compare insects
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, and the US Dairy Export Council, Finke 2012

Two billion people already rely on about 2000 edible insects as a source of food. We’re not just talking exotic chefs in Asia. Here in the U.S.A., the FDA allows up to:

— 30 insect parts in 100 grams of peanut butter
— 30 fruit fly eggs in 100 grams of tomato sauce
— 10 insects in 8 ounces of golden raisins
— 10 maggots in 100 grams of drained mushrooms

Bottom line: Americans eat about 500 grams of insects and insect parts every year. That’s the equivalent of a little over a pound of chicken.

Fans of the film “Snow Piercer” will appreciate the potential for insects as a food source. Or maybe not.

hLMdH
Image source: StackExchange

 

Feeling brave and looking for your own arthropod recipe? If you’re in New Orleans, drop by the Insectatorium where the Executive Bug Chef is whipping up holiday treats.

SONY DSC
Image Source: Audobon Butterfly Garden and Insectatorium

How about this as a gift to yourself or a loved one?

NewBug
Image source: David George Gordon

David George Gordon’s Eat-a-Bug cookbook was listed as one of the New York Times best cookbooks of 2013. If you’re in Seattle, Mr. Gordon’s home town, you can join one of his cooking demonstrations.

for-robyn2
Image source: David George Gordon

Moi? Truth be told, the only insects to pass my lips (except the FDA-allowable ten bugs per eight ounces in my raisins), were chocolate covered ants a so-called friend fed me for a joke, many, many years ago. She watched me chew with bright-eyed glee that would have tipped off anyone but the most ardent chocolate lover. They tasted, incidentally, the way ants smell.

Still — Scribbler is willing to bet there will be more insects on plates in the not to distant future. Maybe even on mine.

Have you tried eating or cooking with insects? How did they go down? Or up?

38 comments

  • I just got back from New Orleans, but no stop at the Insectatorium for me. Bummer. 😉

    That table is great. There’s certainly no denying the protein wallop they pack. Still, I think I’ll stick to other sources. Such a wimp, I am…

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  • Welcome “home.” Hope you had a great visit. Hear some great music? Eat some great food?

    You’d think, seeing those healthy statistics, a conscientious eater might be tempted, but um …

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  • Pretty interesting facts! It reminds me of the wonderful children’s chapter book “Beetles, Lightly Toasted,” in which a 5th-grade boy does a science experiment about edible insects by sneaking them into the food of friends and family to see who notices. But that’s CLOSEST I want to get to the topic! There aren’t enough social arguments in the world to get me any closer.

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  • P.S. And I’m swearing off peanut butter, raisins, tomato sauce — and anything else you add to the list. 🙂

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    • That officially qualifies as an open mind. I’d like to say I’m looking at black flies in a new light, but alas, cultural barriers are rearing their ugly thoraxes.

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      • I once had the opportunity to eat chocolate covered ants. An easy ‘out’ is to say, “I’m allergic to ants.” It contains a few unspoken words: “I’m allergic to (the idea of eating) ants.”

        I wonder if anyone has taken a locust pot pie to a pot luck to see what happens. Then…once people say how great it is, that’s the time to hand out the recipe. 🙂

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  • Ok. No. Not going to do it. I’m so squeemish I saw this post in my email (along with the title of the post) just before dinner, and put off reading it until afterwards, just so I wouldn’t be put off dinner entirely by the thought of bugs.

    But, it is good to know in case I get lost in the wilderness somewhere, sometime . . .

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  • Here you are again, educating us! Love this, not the bugs but the post. Would you believe that I have tried fried mealworm?? YES. Mr. Brick was the Director of an Environmental Education Center in our town for many years and eating mealworms and crickets was one of the events. I tried a little piece and swallowed it pretty quickly. I am okay with eating bugs if they are pulverized first! Although pretty, those desserts need to have the insects mixed in with the batter and crushed and then you wouldn’t know what your are eating. Or even if you do, it won’t look like a bug. Bon Appetite! 🙂

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    • You could have written this! Bravo Mr. Brick, and you too. Nothing more courageous than challenging cultural taboos, or sampling them.

      Now that you’ve pointed it out, I wonder how many things are pulverized into our food? Food makers could get away with anything. Not going to think about it. You’re right. That pumpkin pie from the Insectatorium looks purposely provocative. When we visited, the mister purposely steered me in the opposite direction when the cooking demonstration started. Had to borrow this photo from the website and can’t say for sure that they don’t make the actual samples a tad more palatable looking.

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  • Oh thank you for this interesting information. Now I recall how me and my colleagues used to look in dismay at tribal people who enjoyed eating all kinds of insects. But they knew what was good for them 🙂
    Regards.

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  • The fact that someone out there created a Nutritional Chart for insects is enough for me to pause and think about what bug I could possibly eat? Hmm … I would have to say a Lady Bug. although I would probably feel bad since they are the cutest of the insect family.
    My real hope is that Monsanto doesn’t get any ideas!!

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    • Something about nutritional charts that seem to make anything appear to be food. Imagine, the Grocers Manufacturers fought nutritional information charts when first proposed, but now probably realize they probably help sell all the foodstuffs in the middle aisles. (Monsanto is full of ideas. All with our health and safety first and foremost in their minds.)

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  • Gosh, never thought of eating any insects. However in some islands in Indonesia, some ethnic groups have been using the sago worms as part of their traditional cuisine. I have heard how healthy and delicious the meal is but I have never dare to try it. I guess the appearance of the meal does matter to increase my appetite 😦

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  • I did watch the movie Snow piercer just the other day. Figured they were probably surviving off of insects but seeing the process made my stomach turn a bit. No other than incidental consumption I haven’t tried insects. I’m not too eager to try either. I admit I do love a good steak!

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  • Sorry I’m late Julia, but hubby just came home from the hospital. Ack! I’m so not an insect person. We are being invaded by ants this season. What a battle! But to eat one? Not me. Well, unless I’m unaware of it. lol. Or starving to death. Then one needs to do what one needs to do. Yet I can’t imagine! Ewe, ewe, ewe! Forget the protein! Eat fruit! 🙂

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    • Glad your husband is home in time for the holiday! Is he doing okay?

      Roaches on skewers do nothing for me either. Looking forward to a nice traditional Thanksgiving. Or maybe not. Was just reading that one of the things the pilgrims had for the first Thanksgiving with eels.
      Hope all is well, and that you have a great Thanksgiving.

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  • I ate a tequila (mezcal) worm on my 21st birthday. Well, half, because I split it with my friend. 🙂 But I guess that’s not exactly cooking with bugs. 🙂

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  • I really don’t think I could do it, despite all the good reasons. Well, I was brought up vegetarian, and having never had a protein deficiency… I think I’ll stick with what I know 🙂

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    • There are certainly lots of non-bug, non-cow, non-animal protein sources out there. You could teach us carnivores a thing or two.

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  • I guess the important thing is the right number of insects and type of plants. There has been weird mammoth infestations of lady bugs around certain homes in certain parts of Canada…..

    And no, I don’t recall eating deliberately an insect –yet.

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