Can Eating Insects Really Save the World?

I want to start off by saying that I recently got into meal planning after the birth of my first child—who is now about 3 months new, woo-hoo!

Baby tax:


Isn’t he cute!!?

That being said, after a brutal first week back to work, I realized that I’d have to prioritize my time and that I don’t care enough about working out to actually do it. I’d much rather spend time with my little fam and shred my guitar. So, I figured meal planning would be the most efficient way to get healthy and s.l.o.w.l.y. shed some weight.

**This does relate to insects, I promise.**

At any rate, since I started, one of my friends mentioned being disappointed that I hadn’t incorporated any insect into our meals. I’m meal planning to save time and money, but insects require a lot of time to process and are ungodly expensive in comparison with other protein sources.

In the past, for example, I would order a box of 1,000 live crickets and freeze them. That sounds easy. NOPE nope nope. Some crickets would always manage to escape and my dog and I would be running all over the house trying to catch them–my dog basically would crush them with her wet nose, while I tried to put them back in the box. Even after getting them back into their container and freezing them, I still had to clean and prep them. As a final step, I had to guess how to cook them and for how long. Sometimes I failed, sometimes not. Other insects I’d order–wax worms and meal worms, as another example–were really difficult to clean and prep. It took me sometimes an hour to prep and clean 250 wax worms and that isn’t even a half pound of protein!! I’d always have to spend so much time picking each individual larva out of saw dust one by one, then freeze them, then clean them. So. much. time. wasted.

What I learned from all my experiences is that for insects to be in demand they have to be easy to prep and they have to be palatable. I’m pretty sure that most people wouldn’t be too keen on regularly eating insects unless they are not visible. They also have to be cheap…much cheaper than they are now. For example, I spend about $4.50 per pound on chicken and about $4.00 per pound on ground beef. Crickets? They come in at a whopping $20-$25 a pound and they still need to be processed at home. That’s just not sustainable, nor is it efficient. I really hope to see this change. I used to raise crickets and mealworms at home, but who has time for that? Apparently I don’t.

Our means of production in the U.S. aren’t scalable or cost-efficient when it comes to insects as a source of food for human consumption. I think this will change, but I’m not sure when. An article I read today brings up a lot of troubling ideas that I–while fully embracing this awesome protein source–hadn’t considered:

-“We might be trading one destructive food system for another…’We have gotten into a bad habit of talking about specific organisms as ‘sustainable’ or ‘unsustainable,’…’But sustainability is not a property of organisms. It is a property of systems. If we think insects will suddenly change the catastrophic effects of monoculture and mass production, we will be sorely disappointed.'”

-The “[c]ost and logistics of mass production pose a barrier….The problem is that [we] have to make a pretty big upfront investment to make insects cheap enough to be really competitive…[We] have to invest in large-scale production of insects and [we] have to breed insects to make them better-tasting and more efficient to produce.”

-Even if production increases, “as cricket production is scaled up, the feed conversion ratio (amount of food to reach harvestable size) gets higher and therefore less efficient…[C]rickets could only supplement global protein supply if we develop feed that is better and cheaper than what we use for livestock.”

-“[Crickets and other insects often] require pairing with other ingredients.” Especially if they’re going to be accepted by mainstream America.

-Insects won’t end world hunger since “[p]eople go hungry because of poverty, not a lack of supply.”

That’s some heavy stuff to ponder. I’m still mulling it over. What do you think?


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