Green Guru: Eating Bugs

Photograph by Hans Gissinger / Trunk Archive

Green Guru: Eating Bugs

Insects are an eco-friendly meat alternative.

By Susan Cosier
Published: July-August 2012

Are there environmental or health benefits to eating bugs?

Andy Greenberg, Brooklyn, NY

 

Wriggling larvae and jumping crickets--baked or pan-fried--are the key to our survival, some entomologists actually argue. Bountiful bugs (they make up four-fifths of the described animal species on the planet) are nutritious and delicious, and wonderfully efficient: They produce more protein with less food, energy, and emissions than any livestock. 

From an environmental perspective, it's clear why we should be consuming bugs, says Marcel Dicke, a Dutch entomologist who has been studying the benefits of eating insects--a practice called entomophagy--for the past 15 years. Raising pigs requires feeding them up to four times the food needed to produce the same amount of bug protein (for cows it's 12 times). Also, studies show that beef and pork farms create up to 100 times the greenhouse gases produced by those rearing insects. Bugs are tasty, too, says Dicke: "We're missing a lot of good food." 

The earth's human population will swell from seven billion to nine billion by 2050. If food consumption keeps pace, we'll need to produce 70 percent more animal protein in that time. More than 80 percent of the human population currently dines on insects, which are already in a lot of the foods we eat. Manufacturers crush dried insects to make cochineal extract or carmine, a red dye used to color foods like Ocean Spray Ruby-Red Grapefruit Juice and Yoplait strawberry yogurt. The main hurdle in many developed countries, including the United States, is the ick factor, says Dicke.

Some adventurous entrepreneurs are trying to popularize insect-based foodstuffs. Last year Matthew Krisiloff launched Entom Foods, which aims to make insect meat from mealworms or crickets more available. Florence Dunkel, a Montana State University entomologist, hosts an annual bug buffet with such insect dishes as mealworm quesadillas and cricket stir-fry. And Dicke and a colleague published The Insect Cookbook this year for the growing number of people who want to sample bug burgers and worm muffins.

For those interested in cooking their own bugs, Rainbow Mealworms and Fluker Farms are two companies that sell the key ingredients to help broaden your palate. 

Send recipes or other questions to greenguru@audubon.org.



Recipes from David George Gordon, bug chef and author of Eat-A-Bug Cookbook

Sheesh! Kabobs

 

Yield: Six servings

 

Ingredients 

1/2 cup lemon juice 

1 tablespoon olive oil 

1 teaspoon honey 

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 

2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs--parsley, mint, thyme, and/or tarragon 

1/4 teaspoon salt 

pinch of freshly ground pepper 

1 red pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks 

1 small yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges

12 frozen katydids, locusts, or other suitably sized Orthoptera, thawed 

 

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a non-reactive baking dish. Add the Orthoptera, cover, and marinate overnight.

When ready to cook, remove the insects from the marinade. Pat them dry for ease of handling. Assemble each kabob, alternately skewering the insects, tomatoes, and onion wedges to create a visually interesting lineup.

Brush the grill lightly with olive oil. Cook the kabobs two or three inches above the fire, turning them every two or three minutes and basting them with additional olive oil as required. The exact cooking time will vary, depending on the kind of grill and types of insects used; however, the kabobs should cook for no longer than eight or nine minutes.

 

Orthopteran Orzo

 

Yield: Six servings

 

Ingredients 

3 cups vegetable broth 

1 cup orzo 

1 cup two- to three-week-old cricket nymphs 

1/2 cup grated carrot 

1/4 cup finely diced red pepper 

1/4 cup finely diced green pepper 

1 tablespoon butter 

1 clove garlic, minced 

1/2 cup chopped onion 

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

 

Bring the broth to a boil, then stir in the orzo.

Continue boiling the pasta until it is tender (about 10 minutes); drain any extra liquid, then quickly add the carrot and red and green peppers. Mix evenly and set aside.

In a separate skillet, melt the butter, adding the minced garlic, onions, and crickets. Sautee briefly, until the onions are clear and the garlic and crickets have browned.

Combine the cricket mixture, including any liquid, with the orzo and vegetables, top with parsley, and serve.

 

Iowa State University's Entomology Club also has a number of recipes on its website (http://www.ent.iastate.edu/misc/insectsasfood.html). Below are a few to whet your appetite.

 

Rootworm Beetle Dip

 

Ingredients

2 cups low-fat cottage cheese

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons skim milk

1/2 cup reduced-calorie mayonnaise

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons dill weed

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Susan Cosier

Susan Cosier is former senior editor at Audubon magazine. Follow her on Twitter @susancosier.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine

Comments

We better take this matter of

We better take this matter of climate changing very seriously, I really don't want to eat bugs!

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