Eating bugs is generally taboo, but most people have unknowingly been doing it our whole lives. It’s time to accept entomophagy as a dietary necessity.
Urban legend tells us that the average person eats eight spiders in their sleep per year. Of course, there is no way of testing this statistic without carefully documenting nightly bug intake of a group of people – and who has time for that?
While we may or may not be swallowing arachnids during our nightly snoozes, we are likely consuming more than this made-up number during the day: most food products contain FDA-accepted levels of bug heads, wings, and throats, which we’ve been eating all our lives.
But bugs are far from bad to consume. In fact, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization recently released a report on “Edible Insects,” explaining the value of bugs as major contributions to ecosystems, diets, and food security in both developed and developing countries. This is not news to the many parts of the world in which entomophagy, or the consumption of insects, is perfectly normal.
The idea of bugs as a food source is a little more difficult to digest, both literally and figuratively, for Westerners that cringe at even the suggestion of ant-ridden cereal.
Accidental Entomophagy: Bugs in your diet
How many bugs on the daily are you actually consuming? That depends on what you’re eating, and what’s in it – regardless, it doesn’t negatively impact health. Here are some of your favorite foods, and their insect level according to the FDA. (For everyone’s sake, we will not include FDA accepted amounts of rodent hair):
Chocolate: Average of 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams
Noodles: Average of 225 insect fragments or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples
Canned & Dried Mushrooms: Average of over 20 or more maggots of any size per 100 grams of drained mushrooms and proportionate liquid or 15 grams of dried mushrooms
Peanut Butter: We’re eating bugs at an average rate of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams
Golden Raisins: 10 or more whole or equivalent insects and 35 Drosophila eggs per 8 oz.
Canned Tomatoes: Average of 10 or more fly eggs per 500 grams
Grossed out? Don’t be!
Sure, it may seem disgusting that so many bug heads have made their way through our digestive systems without our knowing. But that’s just our culture. According to the FAO, it’s estimated that bugs – whole bugs – play major roles in the diets of over 2 million people, with 1900 species reportedly used as food.[contextly_auto_sidebar]
Insects are also highly nutritious, with high fat, protein, vitamin, fiber, and mineral content necessary for healthy diets. In addition, harvesting insects allows livelihood opportunities and economic development. They also provide a quick, cheap, and efficient alternative to counter nutritional insecurity.
If we can get over our taboo about eating bugs and accept entomophagy, the future could change for the better – especially as food demand is expected to rise 70 percent by 2050, and meat alternatives will be sorely needed.
One startup is already leveraging the idea of eating bugs as a business. The startup, called Exo Protein, makes delicious, nutritious protein bars using flour made from crickets.