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By: William Ray Yeager
I haven’t always wanted to eat bugs. As a child I giggled and cringed at the thought while listening to songs that used insectivore imagery to discourage such unsavory practices. Recently I’ve learned that my aversion is a product of a particular nuance of American exceptionalism wherein we westerners refuse to eat what 80 percent of the world considers tasty. Indeed, while I had been limiting my animal protein to no more than ten species, cuisine in the rest of the world includes over 1,000 different species of insect alone. Clearly I’ve been missing out on something big.
My sense of adventure might lead me on a journey for the perfect wax worm larva tacos, but I am not the pioneer. No fewer than three recent SFGate articles cover the growing movement to get insects off of the FDA’s “Food Defect” list and onto your plate. For some of us the endorsement of 5.6 billion humans is all the evidence necessary for a shift in diet. For those that need more convincing there are a number of arguments you’ll hear from every entomophagous evangelist:
- Human Health – We don’t share diseases with insects as we do with other mammals.
- Conversion Factor – Pound for pound insects are 900% better at turning grass into protein than beef cattle.
- Environment – Greater conversation efficiency means less waste. Insect waste is also less harmful than mammal waste in terms of greenhouse gas output.
- Food Value – From a quality perspective, the “meat” of many insects is as good or better than beef in terms of protein, fat, vitamin and mineral content.
Logic alone will not turn the tide of American public opinion. Entrepreneurs looking to build economies of scale face an uphill battle of stakeholder engagement. Nevertheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the lunchtime crowd at the Don Bugito taco cart represent the leading edge of a tidal wave of latent demand.