The buzzin’ has quieted with the onset of snow, so it’s time for us to make our own seasonal change. Notes from the Lab returns for another run until the spring thaw! What better way to mark our return than by diving into the world of entomophagy, otherwise known as the widely practiced (and occasionally controversial) convention of eating bugs. While insect consumption is taboo in the West, cultures worldwide have practiced it for centuries. And tonight, MBHI brings entomophagy to the masses with our annual banquet, Bug Appetit!
People are sometimes shocked to learn that MBHI encourages entomophagy. It may seem gauche to provide awe-inspiring insect encounters while promoting their consumption. But the fact remains: Insects are a healthy and sustainable alternative to farmed meat, and the practice is not as dystopian as it’s made out to be by Western media.
It’s news to no one: Animal agriculture takes a toll on our planet, from land and water use to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock utilizes roughly 25% of useable land on Earth. A single kg of beef is estimated to require 22,000 liters of water to produce, and that’s on the low end. Insect cultivation for human consumption (known adorably as “minilivestock”) can reduce the ecological and economic costs of rearing livestock. Minilivestock uses less water and space and is a significant source of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
In some parts of the world, insects are not only a valuable food source; consuming insects en masse can help reduce pest species. In Mexico, the grasshopper Sphenarium purpurascens is a significant crop pest, but industrious farmers harvest the hoppers as a food source. They are commonly fried and tossed with garlic, lime, chilies, and salt (known as chapulines). The resulting snack is gaining traction outside of Mexico with foodies and even baseball fans. For Mexican farmers, the grasshoppers net an additional source of income while reducing the pest population.
While we appreciate insects and their relatives for their ecological, cultural, and educational value, we recognize their potential to feed the planet sustainably. It may take some time to convince Westerners of their culinary potential. But if the thought of insects is something you can’t stomach, at the very least, remember: don’t yuck my yum.