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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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  • Good Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeDataLink ( 536925 ) <`mike' `at' `murraynet.net'> on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @11:47AM (#44424177) Homepage Journal

    It's all in our heads. We choose to eat some animals (like cows) and not others (like cats) because of cultural reasons. Same with insects.

  • LAND SHRIMP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @11:47AM (#44424183)

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

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @11:50AM (#44424223)

    Why is this some mystery? The *smart* thing for humanity would be to eat nutrition sticks composed of a solid mash giving us all the nutrients we need for a day. But, we're humans not robots so we don't simply dismiss emotion from our diets.

    For those of you who disagree, cicada season will be here shortly. I invite you to test out your theory in your backyard.

  • by silviuc ( 676999 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @11:56AM (#44424351) Homepage
    No matter how much I'm trying to train my brain it still thinks that insects and their larval forms are absolutely repulsive. You can't defeat that unless you have grown up eating those things and then it's the norm. In a "survival" scenario we might be able to overcome the repulsion as the hunger sensation might override our other instincts. Anyway, I reckon that, for my remaining life span, pigs, cows, chicken, turkeys, rabbits... etc won't go extinct and neither will we suddenly lose the ability to grow them..

    Ugh that risotto with grubs did not help either... yuuuuucckkkkk! Bleah! Ugh!
  • Another paraphrased quote:

    "When I eat bugs, it always tastes like they get a last bit of revenge on me by taking a dump in my mouth."

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

    by unique_parrot ( 1964434 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:09PM (#44424629)
    I think eating non-vegitarian animals is not a very clever idea.
  • Re:Size problem? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:17PM (#44424739)

    Exactly. The same reason we don't eat pigeons or rodents anymore, it's just too much work to cook them for that little meat. And those animals are still giants compared to insects.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:20PM (#44424803)

    There are two problems here:

    1. Some insects flock to filth. So culturally we consider insects as being unclean (roaches in particular are associated with unhealthy living conditions).

    2. No one seems to want to put effort into preparing the insects before they try to get people to eat them. While I like shrimp I would not be interested in popping a living shrimp in my mouth. Similarly I would be much more willing to eat a cockroach if it had been decapitated and cooked first.

    Corollary to #2. The less you have to dismember the insect yourself the better. Blue crabs are really popular where I live but something like 1 in 5 people refuse to eat them the "traditional" way where you tear apart the boiled crab yourself, and many more refuse at first and need to be peer pressured into it before they decide they like it. They usually will eat crab cakes or crab soup however.

  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:23PM (#44424857)

    There's no food shortage, thus no incentive, no problem that eating bugs could solve. We could just as well go vegetarian, we just don't do it because we can afford to live better. That's like asking why don't we live in tents. Because we can afford not to.

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

    by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:24PM (#44424875) Homepage

    I wouldn't cook any of my cats, but from the descriptions it seems like cat might be ok in a stew or soup. I have seen a few stories of cat consumption which tend to agree with this thought. In fact, most of the wikipedia headings on it seem to indicate stew is a common choice for those who eat cat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_meat [wikipedia.org]

    Overall though, I think this is part of why cats self-domesticated:

    1. We don't eat the same things they do... vermin tend to not be worth our time. They are not terribly good meat themselves, and also not really worth our time.
    2. They are not tasty nor worth our time in terms of meat:carcass ratio
    3. They don't eat the same things we do... they can't taste sugar and their need for lysine makes them obligate carnivores,
    4. They eat vermin who do eat the same things we do. Cats don't eat grain, but mice and rats do.
    5. They can't harm us beyond a scratch or a bite, which can mean infection and even loss of limb or death, but that isn't really the same issue; a cat in such a fight with a human is most likely going to lose badly and quickly.

    Throw in cuddly and warm, and its easy to see why cats and humans made natural, mutually beneficial, community, and why we let them move indoors with us.

  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:30PM (#44424969) Journal

    It's natural.

    "It's natural" is one of the worst non-arguments there is. Flinging poop is natural. Many parasites are far, far more disgusting and entrely natural. There are plenty of natural things which are beyond disgusting and whose behaviour we wouldn't want to replicate in a remotely civilised society.

    There is much that we do that isn't natural, living in shelter, eating cooked food, wearing clothes, arguing on the internet and I for one am very glad of it.

    most of us have eaten some of the aquatic kinds of insects

    I doubt that very much. Perhaps you are talking about crustaceans? Crabs are about as close to insects as cows are to sea squirts.

  • by ebunga ( 95613 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:31PM (#44424997) Homepage

    Seriously. This year has been a non-stop onslaught of "YOU WILL EAT BUGS". It's DeBeers diamonds all over again.

    Stop trying to manipulate me you shitbags. I'm eating a goddamned steak wrapped in bacon wrapped in a bigger steak, served between two pork chops. FOADIAF.

  • by YalithKBK ( 2886373 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:45PM (#44425197)

    This is like, the fourth article in as many months on slashdot about why we should use insects as a food source. Are they pushing this as a new diet fad or something?

  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:49PM (#44425261) Journal

    I think you pretty much nailed it here. With bigger animals like cows and even shrimp you can separate the meat from the shell, with insects you can't. Insect exoskeletons also frequently come with spiny legs, thoraxes, etc, not the most pleasant things to have in your mouth or try to swallow.

    Supposedly roasting insects and grubs makes the interiors firmer and less gooey. As far as taste goes it is telling that advocates always (for instances) promote chili powder covered or chocolate dipped insects. Even they can't handle eating bugs as they are.

    There is also the issue of disease and parasites. I'm not sure you can clean insect bodies off as thoroughly as you could, say, a lobster. With beef you are taking meat that hasn't been exposed to the environment unlike insect bodies. With insects you are also eating the contents of their digestive tracts.

  • Re:I'm in. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FatLittleMonkey ( 1341387 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:06PM (#44425519)

    Give me some tasty recipes.

    1. Feed insects to chickens.
    2. Cook and eat chickens.

  • Presentation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kookus ( 653170 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:17PM (#44425635) Journal

    Process it like a hamburger or a hotdog and there will be a lot less resistance.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:51PM (#44426063) Journal
    > How does the variety of toxic plants fit into this narrative? I don't see the process of learning what insects to eat
    > as being any different from the process of learning what plants to eat.

    The poisonous parts tend to be the leaves, not the fruit. Humans, and primates generally, don't often graze on random leaves.
    We eat the sweet fruit, which is designed to be be eaten. Tomato stems and leaves are poisonous, the fruit is delicious.
    The poisonous part is not delicious. Beans are a notable exception to this general rule.

    > far-less-than-modern practices [wikipedia.org] led humans to separate the poisonous mushrooms from the edible ones

    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

    If you're familiar with the medicinal properties of 'shrooms, you may recognize the 'medicinal' ones ARE the poisonous ones - they cause hallucinations. Anyway, it's a general rule - we eat a lot more fruit than fungus.

    > Why do you say they are an acquired taste compared to anything else we eat?

    Our taste buds are:
    Salty: meat
    sweet: fruit, including "vegetable" fruits like cucumber
    sour: fruit
    bitter: danger
    maybe umami (glutamate, MSG)

    Mushrooms are neither sweet, nor salty, nor slightly sour. Those are hallmarks of "food". Fruits and some vegetables are sweet and a bit sour, meat is salty. Things that don't fit the taste profile of either fruits or meats are not pleasant when most people first try them. We can learn to enjoy them, however, and beer is a great example. Give young child mushrooms or bleu cheese and see what happens - they haven't learned the taste, so they only enjoy the naturally attractive flavors.

    Umami (glutamate) is debated as to whether it's a basic taste, but it does seem that IN COMBINATION WITH other food flavors, it can enhance those other flavors and make them more delicious. Mushrooms are full of glutamates, they are nature's MSG. Perhaps that's why we eat mushrooms and not other fungus, and why we normally put mushrooms on top of some base food, like meat. Putting mushrooms on a steak is the same compounds as putting MSG on it - it amplifies the steak taste.

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