Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
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.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

What's Stopping Us From Eating Insects?

Comments Filter:
  • Good Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeDataLink ( 536925 ) <`mike' `at' `'> 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.

    • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @11:49AM (#44424215)

      We choose to eat some animals (like cows) and not others (like cats)...

      Speak for yourself; I find cat makes a fine goulash. Okay, well I might if I lived in Lousiana... :)

      • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @11:54AM (#44424305)

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

        • 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.

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

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:10PM (#44424643)

            They served as a dual purpose... dogs actually were a result of wolves domesticating themselves. The socialable wolves were not killed by humans as they hung out eating their scraps. The new dogs served as companions and were used as "reserve" food supply. Humans used to eat wild horses regularly, and later used them as a beast of burden AND a "reserve" food supply.

            Once you start having a relationship with something, you tend to want to avoid eating it, because you cannot undo it. So, you keep looking for another food source. Eventually, it becomes taboo.

            • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:28PM (#44424949)

              no, you made up that last bit about "taboo" yourselves. Dogs on the menu at many places in the word, so are horses (FDA just added Mr. Ed to list by the way, my glue-eating classmates of 40+ years ago were clearly ahead of their time)

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

                by cusco ( 717999 ) <brian.bixby@gma i l . c om> 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 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, Interesting)

                by nebular ( 76369 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:41PM (#44425939)

                Horse is a reserve food. Taste is secondary to usefulness. A horse can do a large amount of work, they are more useful on the yoke than on the table. Same with dog. Dogs are more useful as a work animal than a food animal. Cows, not so much. I can't think of too many situations where a cow would be best suited as a work animal. So we eat cows, same with most kinds of pig. Over time the cost benefit gets melded with some of the cultures and you get a social taboo.

      • 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: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.

        • 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 Doug Otto ( 2821601 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:05PM (#44424515)
      I love cats. I just can't eat a whole one myself.
    • 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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        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...
        • Depends on what you're feeding your beef, but a respectable feed conversion from grain is generally around 5:1. Higher conversion ratios are usually found when animals are grazing, owing to the lower nutrient density of forage versus concentrated energy foods like grain.

          But insects are remarkably efficient, particularly with regards to water!

          I'm pretty curious about that cricket flour now. :)

    • Carnivore flesh is not that tasty. Notice we really don't eat carnivores.
      • Is that because they're not tasty or because they're not easy to farm? Some folks will say that dog tastes amazing, though I've never tried it myself.
    • I'd probably eat insects if I could actually buy them.
      Only very few specialty stores sell them and they're too expensive for anything but exclusive party snacks.

    • And before investing time effort and funding into insect based food sources I would think making that investment into alternative plant based foods, like quinoa for protein and purslane for omega-3s, would make sense.

  • 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.

    • Re:LAND SHRIMP (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:00PM (#44424447) Journal

      Insects generally have a lower meat to shell ratio than sea arthropods.

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

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

      Psst, they're free if you know how to find the best habitat!

    • 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.

      • A scorpion is not an insect but an arachnid. Also, they are nocturnal and hence don't need light; I guess you meant a heat source. They are communal if you give them enough space.
  • I'll give it a try. I just ask that it be cooked well. Give me some tasty recipes.

    • You can dry roast mealworms in your oven and pulverize them in a blender or spice grinder for a cheap protein powder. It adds kind of a nutty flavor to whatever you put it in.

      • by Indras ( 515472 )

        You can dry roast mealworms in your oven and pulverize them in a blender or spice grinder for a cheap protein powder. It adds kind of a nutty flavor to whatever you put it in.

        I could definitely try this. There is a certain revulsion towards eating insects due to the appearance. Imagine opening a bag of flour and finding some maggots crawling inside... you'd just throw the whole bag away. At that point, even if you filter them out, the flour is "tainted" in your mind and is no longer edible. Same goes for a spot of mold on a slice of bread.

        However, if you could simply grind them up into a powder or paste and eliminate the visual association, I would certainly not be against

    • 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.

  • 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 bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:36PM (#44425055) Homepage Journal

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

      I looked into it - supposedly they taste like asparagus. I dislike asparagus!

  • Uh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by korbulon ( 2792438 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @11:51AM (#44424245)

    Would you like flies with that?


    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Would you like flies with that?


      Yes please .. I'll have a serving of crickets, and if you have them can I get a serve of Snowy Tree Crickets to go??

  • by capebretonsux ( 758684 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @11:52AM (#44424283)
    What's Stopping Us From Eating Insects?

  • The insect thing has been brought up multiple times in the western media already. So what are we waiting for? Shouldn't someone already set up an insect farm and make a deal with a supermarket? Personally, I'm cool with the idea.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      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.

    • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

      Because anyone smart enough to run a supermarket knows that counterspace allocated for bugs will simply reduce his profits, not only for that counterspace, but for his entire store. People will go out of their way to avoid even SEEING bugs, nevermind eat them. That instinct exists for a reason.

  • Yummy, yummy bugs.

    I used to get by on the radiation from my CRT, but since LCD monitors I have to get my nutrition from bugs. Unfortunately, the internet is so full of bugs I'm considering going on a diet.

  • 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!
    • Les Stroud (Survivorman) calls it plate fright. You need to be really hungry to overcome it.

    • 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.

  • Well it used to be Western cultures were less squeamish about eating all parts of the animal as well. I think pig's cheek was considered a delicacy in upper Victorian society. Yet these days, processed synthetic foods are accepted more than natural food.
    • Well it used to be Western cultures were less squeamish about eating all parts of the animal as well.

      We aren't really. In fact we're probably eat more parts of the animal than any other society in history. To further that end we have invented such techniques as air-blasted pig brains and mechanically recovered meat. If there's protein or fat in it, then someone will buy it and turn it into food.

      Basically anything that's far enough from a good cut now gets ground up and put into various products. On the bot

  • by BurningTyger ( 626316 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:09PM (#44424623)

    I ate insects during a special event at Insectarium in Montreal. I have to say, people do not eat insect because it simply does not taste good.

    There are three problem with insects. First is the exoskeleton. With shrimp and lobster. The shells can be easily removed. Not so with grasshopper. The stir fried grasshopper with heavy sauce can mask its insecty taste, but it still feel like eating little shrimps with shells on.

    The second problem is the texture. Of the insects I had, none has the chewy texture people associate with "meat". Beef/pork/chicken, or shrimp/lobster/octopus, or fish, has chewy texture. With insects, it does not. For example, I tried silk worm. No exoskeleton. But when you bite into it, its body burst gooey stuff in your mouth.

    Third is the taste. People naturally like cooked meat. Without any seasoning, most cooked meat and seafood taste great on their own. With insects, there's something about their taste that is off-putting to human and require proper seasoning to mask it.

    • 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.

      • When something is truly tasty, it is generally good plain. That doesn't mean you only eat it plain, that seasoning isn't awesome, but that it isn't needed to be good.

        I love a good steak with no sauce at all. Raw salmon is great as is (though I do like it with soy sauce better). Chicken is a little bland when cooked with nothing, but no problem and actually needs very little (bit of oil and garlic) to make it quite good. Etc.

        Same deal with fruits and veggies. Carrots, tomatoes, apples, peaches, bananas, etc,

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Like anything else, the gustatory qualities of an insect depend on how the insect is prepared. You wouldn't care for a raw shrimp, and you wouldn't care for a raw silkworm either. For that matter you probably wouldn't like raw chicken.

      Crunchy ants straight from the mound is a taste many people might never acquire, but it doesn't mean you can't use your culinary skills to transform them into something else. For example there are forest people in India who grind stinging ants into a paste and make it into a

  • Economics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:13PM (#44424673)
    And so the economic decline of America continues. Just business as usual. Now we are here discussing eating insects because meat is too expensive.

    Yes, we don't insects because of purely cultural taboos. I personally will try anything once. But cultural taboos don't change because we think it they should, they change because they are forced to, either physically (like conquerors forcing natives to adopt their religion) or economically (countries sinking into abject poverty have to start eating insects because they can't afford conventional high quality protein).

    That aside, insects are neat in that they convert things like cardboard into high quality protein (ie you can feed cardboard to termites kept in a plastic box). The animals we have used for food in the past have usually either converted inedible biomass like grass or waste food (think pigs) into tasty protein. Insects broaden the potential input sources. Rather than having all that cardboard and presumably paper go to rot in a landfill, why not use it as a feedstock? Even if humans aren't the target, I'd bet it would work well in dog and cat food, or even cattle feed.
    • Dont be ridiculous; look at any economic standard, we continue to be top 10 in the world. Median income, GDP, GDP per capita, nil starvation levels, etc etc etc.

      We're discussing it because someone decided to stir the pot a little and claim that western culture is destroying the world by eating foods that have been eaten for thousands of years. And noone outside of this ridiculous article (LOTS of people eat insects, its just not culturally western) discusses this because its a stupid question. You cant j

  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:20PM (#44424789) Journal

    In LA, you can eat insects at Typhoon [] in Santa Monica or La Guelaguetza [].

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:22PM (#44424843) Homepage

    They get between my teeth all the time. Cow and pig legs don't do that as much.

  • 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 tekrat ( 242117 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:49PM (#44425235) Homepage Journal

    We will eat insects soon enough in the USA. But it will be mashed to a pulp, processed and reprocessed into "food bars" so that we will not recognize it as eating bugs.

    McDonalds will be sure to include a lot of bug in it's "100% pure beef" hamburgers.

    With the rising cost of feed, and the rising cost of meat, fast food and processed food will gradually include more and more bug into their mixture that becomes whatever it is we're eating...

  • by Freddybear ( 1805256 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:11PM (#44425583)

    It's never as simple as "Just grow some bugs and chow down". Most species of insects are hosts to assorted parasites.
    For instance, the common grasshopper (yummy when fried) can carry tapeworms.

    While we have lots of experience dealing with parasites of domestic mammals, not so much for bugs that live on other bugs.

  • 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 houghi ( 78078 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:42PM (#44425957)

    Just like some people never learned to eat vegetables or meat or fish. This all without ever trying it.

    Let us look at something relatively: Fresh fries. In Belgium and The Netherlands, you eat them with mayonnaise. In the UK with vinegar. Ask either to try the other and you will get an initial look of terror on their face.

    And why do they dislike the other so much? Because we have never learned to eat it.

    Also eating is social. So if you try to do something too awkward, you will most likely not be asked to host the next dinner. This means the majority will not do that.

  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @04:17PM (#44427921)
    It is also in the taste. I have tried pretty much everything from snail to frogs (cue to joke here folk) to cricket like (rosted on BBQ, or with honey) various species of big spider (marine and terrestrial) eggs from spider, sea arthropodes and I pass over many other options. The plain fact is that while I don't care for teh appearance (except spider) the taste were bland to not good at all for most of those. There were a few exceptions (the cricket in honey, but I would wagger the honey was the part I liked....). I don't think fighting any perceived disgust will change I disliked that stuff. Just like I am still disliking bruxel sprout, and quasi all alcohol except apple cider (at 2%).

    You know that people eat it for the protein does not mean it taste good. And so far since tehre does not seem to be a food shortage here around, I would like to spend the few years I have left eating good stuff.

Lend money to a bad debtor and he will hate you.