Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kids Wolf Down Bugs In Colo. - Can We Convince Adults To Do Likewise?

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Kids check out cookies made from ground crickets in Denver. (Top)   Fresh, roasted crickets which they all dove into. (Most refused to eat any worms.)

This is a good question, given that by 2025-30, traditional animal protein (pork, beef, even most fish) will have played itself out.  See, e.g.

As I noted, the move to insect consumption is both logical and necessary, given: a) the sheer abundance of the little buggers, b) their 'bang for the buck', e.g. crickets are 12 times more efficient than cattle at providing nutritional (protein ) value, and  c) the fact that traditional sources of animal protein are far too water-intensive to be sustainable.( The production of one pound of beef requires 1800 gallons of water. So that quarter pounder you had for lunch needed 450 gallons of water to produce!) 

All these in concert, not to mention the increase in population by 2050 (to 9 billion at least) mean that eating protein like beef will become impossible. Ultimately, the water  shortages - combined with population demand - will make it so expensive that only the richest will be able to afford it. I am talking about sirloin going for $200 a lb.  With fish also pretty well decimated, that will leave only bugs - unless one goes vegan.

That is why the food experiment conducted at the Denver Language School, to get kids to eat bugs, is so important. Because it is their generation as adults which will be faced with the shortages and costs of regular foods.

The experiment on kids' affinity for insect ingestion occurred compliments of Wendy Lu McGill, who prepared a set of dishes to munch, including: dried mealworms, roasted crickets (see picture), worms, and M&M coated cookies made from pulverized crickets cooked up in a delicious batter. 

As for the kids, they generally were open minded enough to try most of the offerings though they usually had to sniff first at the edibles on offer, and unanimously turned down the worms. Only one kid turned down all, stating emphatically: "I do NOT want to eat bugs!" adding that she was a vegan anyway.  This, of course, is the ick or disgust factor that McGill also must confront in adults - though to a greater degree. Most adults (except maybe the adventurous ones who attend the Denver Western Stock Show) seem to be under the illusion they can go on chowing down steaks and burgers that are cattle -based indefinitely.

But reaching kids is critical, according to McGill, given they're the ones who will be facing the limited (standard) protein future.  As McGill put in a Denver Post piece (March 10, p. 8A):

"They're forming their habits now. Whether or not they choose to eat insects, it's important to me that they think about how their food affects the planet."

It's also time Americans get on the bug bandwagon, given 2 billion around the world already have insects on  the menu. Mexicans, for example, already savor escamole or ant caviar. There's no reason American palates can't also adjust and enjoy these novel foods. Besides, insects are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. Compared to livestock, insects raised on the industrial scale require far less land and water, and emit less heat-trapping CO2..

The industrial scale production of food-grade bugs is now proceeding apace, at "Little Herds" in Texas and "Tiny Farms" in California.   By 2040 it is hoped these units will be going full strength  nationwide to feed a hungry nation which will be assuredly short on cattle, pork, fish and even chickens.

Already, the UN is promoting insects as food, and has identified 1,900 edible varieties while maintaining an information portal. This is in recognition of the more than 1 billion chronically hungry people as well as the increased global demand for cattle-based meat and the grains (e.g. corn meal) to feed animals.

According to a 2013 UN report on food sustainability and production:

"Current food production will need to almost double by 2050. Land is scarce and expanding the area devoted to farming is rarely a viable or sustainable option.  Oceans are over-fished and climate change and related water shortages could have profound implications for food production. What we eat and how we produce it needs to be re-evaluated ."

As one insect consumption advocate, Megan Larmer, also observed:

"Food shouldn't just be an unpalatable pile of nutrients. But we're extracting ridiculous costs from the Earth. Meat is a big reason why. There's a better way forward.  Many cultures value insects as an integral part of their cuisine."

If the Denver experiment on insect consumption by middle-schoolers is any guide, such valuation will extend to many citizens in the future. Indeed, their very lives may well depend on it.

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