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Earth Science Technology

What's Stopping Us From Eating Insects? 655

Lasrick writes "Scientific American has a really nice article explaining why insects should be considered a good food source, and how the encroachment of Western attitudes into societies that traditionally eat insects is affecting consumption of this important source of nutrients. Good stuff." Especially when they're so easy to grow.
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What's Stopping Us From Eating Insects?

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  • Re:Good Question (Score:5, Informative)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:04PM (#44424493) Homepage Journal

    in many places in the world, they walk their dog. in some places in asia, they wok their dog.

    It is believed among the first domesticated animal, raised for consumption were dogs.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:08PM (#44424585) Journal
    Part of it is in our heads. Also, we eat mammals, not creepy-crawlies, because mammals aren't poisonous. Meat (mammals, birds) is also highly concentrated food.
    Insect shells, legs, etc. aren't as good for food, and they are far more likely to be poisonous. Some bugs are poisonous themselves. Others, like flies, hang out in rotting meat which is full of bacteria and toxins. So we evolved to not eat bugs because bugs are likely to make us sick.

    Of course, fungus is similar. Mushrooms are an acquired taste, not something that most people enjoy immediately, but with modern practices we can separate the edible fungus from the poisonous. We eat some edible fungus and smoke one of the poisonous ones. :)

    Cats and dogs aren't "all in our heads", we have them for a reason, and that reason isn't food. Evolutionarily speaking, it's better to let your cat keep the rats away than to eat the cat. "Don't eat your friends" is a good idea, not just a cultural convention.
  • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:09PM (#44424621)

    You are deluded, there is nothing sociopathic about killing and preparing an animal's flesh for a meal. Mankind and his predecessors have been hunting, preparing and cooking animals for over a million years. It's natural.

    Humans also have eaten certain insects, most of us have eaten some of the aquatic kinds of insects. But most prefer fish, livestock, poultry, amphibians. Eating one is no more evil or wrong than eating the other.

  • by David Betz ( 2845597 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:10PM (#44424641)
    Arthropod != Insect
  • Re:Good Question (Score:5, Informative)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:17PM (#44424737) Homepage

    Spoiling the milk gets rid of all of the lactose that will give those Chinese the biggest bellyache and case of the runs they've ever had.

    That is why humans consume a wide variety of fermented milk products (not just cheese).

    Fermentation is not bad and it's not just limited to dairy.

  • Re:Good Question (Score:5, Informative)

    by Holi ( 250190 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:17PM (#44424743)

    I dunno, fish is healthy, and most fish we eat is not vegetarian.

  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:18PM (#44424751) Journal

    Shrimp, Lobsters, and Crabs are Insects

    No, they're not. Insects and crabs share the same phylum: arthropods.

    For reference we're on the phlum chordata. This includes things such as mammals, all fish (bony, otherwise and even jawless), hagfish (weird craniates which aren't really quite vertebrates), lancelets (kind of small brainless proto-proto-proto-fish) and sea squirts which are sessile bag shaped filter feeding blobs.

    Now crustacians is still quite broad but doesn't contain insects. It does however contain woodlice and that really, really gross parasite which eats the fishes tounge and then spends the rest of its life acting as the fishes tounge.


  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:22PM (#44424841)
    I've started eating cricket power bars for hiking. Cricket flour has almost as much protein as beef, much less fat, and tastes great. For the environmentally inclined, consider that ten pounds of grain produces one pound of beef, three pounds of port, or eight pounds of crickets - while consuming virtually no water. Now if only I didn't keep my wife awake all night with the damn chirping...
  • Re: Good Question (Score:4, Informative)

    by IrquiM ( 471313 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:29PM (#44424957) Homepage
    Horse is not a reserve food. One of the best steaks I have ever had was horse meat.
  • Re:Good Question (Score:5, Informative)

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <brian,bixby&gmail,com> on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:52PM (#44425289)
    When the Inca conquered a new people they left the religion and social structure more or less in place, but implemented a few new laws that superseded the existing laws.

    1) The Sun is the god of all gods, superior to whatever deities you already have
    2) The Inca is the king of all kings, superior to whatever ruler you already have
    3) No more sodomy (they wanted to increase population as quickly as possible
    4) Stop eating dogs

    We have three 'calatos', the Peruvian hairless dog (my wife's family has had one or more of these dogs continuously for at least 40 years). Wonderful animals, clean, loyal, no shedding, no fleas, affectionate, intelligent, pretty much everything you want in a dog. And since there's no hair they're easy to prepare for the oven.
  • Re:Good Question (Score:4, Informative)

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <brian,bixby&gmail,com> on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:57PM (#44425379)
    In most of the world horses are working animals. They're taboo because no one wants to eat their tractor/pickup/thresher, and by the time the horse dies they're so tough that shoe leather is preferable.
  • Re:LAND SHRIMP (Score:5, Informative)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:58PM (#44425397) Homepage Journal

    Insects taste like shrimp, crab, or lobster. It's just the cultural bias that keeps people from eating them.

    No, it's mostly economics. I looked into this a few months ago. The best flavor from an insect comes from a an emperor scorpion, which tastes much like shrimp. They take about 18 months to grow to a harvestable size and require about 20 gallons of space to stay healthy. They need lights if kept in captivity and cannot get along in large groups.

    From there, the amount of meat per volume goes way down, unless you're eating meal worms and crickets, which can be toasted as snacks or ground up to make various pastes (McBuggets?) but not enjoyed as a piece of meat.

    If I were to raise emperor scorpions on my farm, they would cost more than lobster (which may still be viable in some restaurants for an exotic option). In our current scheme all of the time, food, and habitat for the lobsters are 'free' and not included in the cost of the meal.

  • Re:Good Question (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:59PM (#44426167)

    As a lactose intolerant westerner, I can ASSURE you that making cheese from milk does not remove all the lactose []. It certainly removes some, but it definitely doesn't remove it all, nor does it make it okay for a lactose intolerant person to eat.

  • Re:Good Question (Score:4, Informative)

    by liquidsin ( 398151 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @02:19PM (#44426415) Homepage

    pigs and chickens are omnivores. anyone trying to sell you vegetarian-fed eggs/chicken is merely aiming at the market that thinks that vegetarian-fed somehow means better. chickens love to eat bugs, rodents, and lizards. a chicken raised strictly on grain is nutrient-deficient and probably shouldn't be eaten.

  • by ozydingo ( 922211 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @02:44PM (#44426785)

    The poisonous parts tend to be the leaves, not the fruit.

    My understanding is that there are plenty of poisonous fruits / berries, many in the same family as human-cultivated varieties that we now eat. But I don't really know the distribution. Also, not all poisonous leaves taste bad or bitter (e.g. hemlock), but I do believe those are the exception to the rule.

    Humans, and primates generally, don't often graze on random leaves.

    Well, I don't know about gorillas, but humans have plenty of leaves in our diet and they had to have gotten there somehow--lots of trial and error, I'm guessing. Why can't the same be applied toward creepy crawlies? (Again, I'm guessing it did, given the prevalnce of bugs in some cuisines.) So I don't see "there are some poisonous ones" as being a unique feature. Maybe there are more poisonous / unsanitary bugs overall so that made it not worth the effort? Maybe there are more look-alikes that made it harder to catalog (though if you've ever tried to use a mushroom key that factor doesn't seem to have dissuaded us either).

    From your wikipedia link: The first reliable evidence of mushroom consumption dates to several hundred years BC in China. The Chinese value mushrooms for MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

    Also from the link (the following two sentences in fact): "Ancient Romans and Greeks, particularly the upper classes, used mushrooms for culinary purposes. Food tasters were employed by Roman Emperors to ensure that mushrooms were safe to eat." There's nothing modern about eating mushrooms, we can just learn a lot more about the toxins with modern techniques.

    Mushrooms are neither sweet, nor salty, nor slightly sour. Those are hallmarks of "food".

    I just don't know why that necessarily means it's an acquired taste. Why is umami, whether in its own right or in combination, not equivalently "naturally attractive" as any other taste sensation? Glutemate is found in meats and veggies too. Conversely, plenty of things may not be perceived as pleasant upon first try; a hypothesis I've read regarding this is that kids have higher sensitivity to different tastes so many common foods for adults are overwhelming and therefore somewhat aversive (e.g., here [] but that's just a random link I found on this topic). I just don't see where you're basing some of your statements from.

    Umami (glutamate) is debated as to whether it's a basic taste

    I thought it was pretty accepted at this point that it was a basic taste in its own right. Wikipedia points to several references claiming so at least. Maybe it doesn't elicit a specific perceptual response on its own (I don't know), is that what you mean?

    Lastly, non-mushroom fungus we eat includes blue-cheese cultures and cuitlacoche []

  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @03:36PM (#44427461)

    Parent may have been clueless to the tongue-in-cheek nature of my post but whoever modded this down was nonetheless a fucking moron; it's well understood that the flesh of nearly-completely-carnivorous creatures (such as felines) is highly toxic and can kill you if you eat it.

    Not really. Salmon, tuna, and swordfish are completely carnivorous and are eaten worldwide. Alligators and snakes are eaten in various parts of the US and are carnivorous. Indigenous Arctic peoples ate diets drawn primarily from seals (all carnivorous) and whales (many of which are carnivorous). Squids and octopi are carnivores.

    Now, that said, carnivore meat does carry some risks, all in the form of bioaccumulation of toxic materials. (e.g. Mercury and other heavy metals, PCBs, etc.) But "highly toxic" is a bit over-dramatic. You can eat a serving of carnivorous fish once a week and be fine. You can also eat far more than that and survive, but you may run into health risks or, more importantly, pass on unsafe levels that will affect your child's development if you get pregnant. Adults only risk death if those kinds of fish are your primary protein source and/or you get them from an actively polluted area. (See, e.g. Minama disease.)

    But the meat *itself* is fine, in absence of human-cause problems.

  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @04:16PM (#44427915)

    Whales and seals, which I mentioned, are mammals and not fish. Lion meat is also sold and eaten (though not without controversy over its conservation status). Polar bear meat is eaten by Arctic indigenous peoples as well, and it's only the liver that's toxic due to its extreme vitamin A content (seal and whale liver is a-okay).

    Black bears are a bit more omnivorous but are also eaten by peoples around the world, including in Japan. Dogs are also eaten in various parts of the world, though their diets as food animals can vary wildly from the standard "mostly carnivore" model.

    And to the specific subject at hand, domestic cat meat has been eaten widely across the world []. I have found absolutely no references to it being toxic.

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.