Bugs Are The Protein Of The Future, But We’re Too Grossed Out To Eat Them

“It’s not that they’re dirty and disgusting so we don’t eat them; it’s that we don’t eat them, so we think of them as dirty and disgusting.”


By Jill Waldbieser, HuffPost



“The Lion King” is known for many iconic scenes, but not for one of its most prescient: when Simba, a natural carnivore, asks about dinner and is told that in lieu of meat, bugs are on the menu. “Slimy, yet satisfying,” is how they’re described.


Disney surely couldn’t have imagined that two decades later, the same audience who enjoyed grub jokes would be saying hakuna matata to protein powder made from pulverized crickets or ordering roasted grasshoppers at baseball games.


Experts agree that this is a good thing. Many argue that entomophagy, aka eating insects, is our dietary destiny, and is well overdue.


America has long been in the minority of cultures that regularly consume bugs, despite growing awareness of the environmental, nutritional and ethical benefits of doing so. In the five years since the United Nations released a major report outlining the ways bugs could solve an exploding population’s protein problems, the market for edible insects in the United States has grown by more than 43 percent.


That’s not to say it’s been easy. Selling bugs — literally and figuratively — to the American public has proved an interesting puzzle.


On the surface, there’s nothing overtly unappealing about insects as food. “The taste isn’t terribly unfamiliar, or strong — it’s almost not there,” said Gina Louise Hunter, a cultural anthropologist at Illinois State University. “We eat lots of things that are far more gross as a concept, and potentially pathogenic. Lobster, for example, is a bottom feeder and eats carrion,” she told HuffPost.


The problem is one of perception. “We have symbolically and psychologically categorized insects as inedible,” Hunter said. “It’s not that they’re dirty and disgusting so we don’t eat them; it’s that we don’t eat them, so we think of them as dirty and disgusting.”


That wasn’t always the case. In Greek and Roman literature, there are mentions of various insects as being delicious. In biblical times, people used to eat locusts. But over time, we gradually turned away from bugs, and with globalization, Hunter said, “eating insects has been come to be seen as primitive.”


Overcoming that cultural bias remains tough. Americans see bugs as something you’d eat out of desperation, or for a “Fear Factor” stunt, not because you’d actually want to. The nose-to-tail movement has faced similar obstacles: People are perfectly content to enjoy ham but not pig testicle, which is only maybe 3 inches away on the same animal...


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