Where can I eat bugs? What events do you host?
Aly Moore is the founder Bugible, a blog about the world of edible insects, and EatBugsEvents.com, an Aladdin‘s cave of unique events around edible insects like wine/bug pairings and bug dinners. After studying food policy at Yale University, Aly has gone on to speak about the role edible insects will play in addressing the challenges of feeding our growing population for audiences like Complex Magazine, Kaiser Permanente, The LA Natural History Museum, and more. She’s been featured on sites like Food & Wine and Forbes. More information: eatbugsevents.com.
Why eat bugs? Why is it important for people to start considering bugs as a viable food source?
The real question is why not. There’s a reason why insects have been a staple food for thousands of years and around 2 billion people eat bugs today.
Choose any food environ-metric you’d like: gallons of water, CO2 equivalents of greenhouse gases, acres of land, feed-conversion-ratio comparisons, you name it. Insects come out ahead of traditional livestock like beef. Insects take 12X less food than cows, produce 100x less CO2, take 1000x less water to raise, and can be grown anywhere.
Not only are insects healthy for the environment, but they are packed with nutrients for us as well. If we compare 100g of crickets to 100g of beef, crickets have 2-3 times more protein; more calcium, iron, vitamin A, fiber, potassium; an ideal omega 3 to 6 ratio; and all 9 essential amino acids. Insects are gluten-free, paleo, and arguably vegan. The only thing holding us back is our cultural biases and stigmas.
I eat bugs because the only reason not to is fear. Fear of something that we are not accustomed to. I find it funny that when my friends say they’re hungry and they’re going to grab some grub… they don’t mean ACTUAL grub. The global population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 and I see insects as a great source of healthy, sustainable protein for the future. I want to be a part of the journey getting Western cultures on board.
Here’s the bottom line: we must be careful with the metrics we choose to assess the sustainability of food systems. Food systems are diverse and complex webs of life and will elude capture by any single metric or model. It would be great if people ate more bugs, but this is only a part of the solution to our systemic food problems. So why bother?
Because eating insects is provocative. We’re opening up a larger dialogue about what it means to eat mindfully, sustainably, and healthfully. About different cultures, cuisines, and challenges. We’re opening minds and mouths with bugs.
Should a vegetarian or vegan eat insects?
Here’s the dilemma: Vegans don’t eat animals, insects are animals, so vegans don’t eat insects. The end. But this overly simple syllogism does not entertain the very real possibility that vegans, by the nature of their quest to reduce animal suffering, may not only be permitted to eat insects—they may be obligated to do so:
- Untold numbers of sentient animals are killed each year to grow and harvest edible crops.
- Farmers routinely unleash arsenals of agricultural ammunition upon “pests” like squirrels, rabbits, mice, moles, deer, wolves, coyote, etc. (AND insects)
- Harvesters unavoidably shred millions of feeling animals who live among the crops. This suffering is just as palpable as the suffering of those animals slaughtered to feed us chicken, pork, beef…
- Plus pesticides used to harvest the vegetation vegans consume to obtain daily nutrition kill more insects than a vegan would need to consume to obtain the same nutrition.
This is the agricultural reality that we all too often ignore. Vegans might respond that incidental animal deaths caused from growing crops is ethically superior to directly killing animals to make burgers. Or that vegan-friendly farming techniques are being developed. With insects as an option, however, the choice is no longer between the incidental or non-incidental deaths of obviously sentient creatures. To summarize: The more vegans replaced plant-based calories with insect-based calories, the fewer animals they’d end up harming. This is the vegan’s dilemma.
Why do you serve WHOLE insects? Why not hide the bugs in cookies or bars?
Although I started off just blogging about insects, I’ve learned that one of the biggest impacts I can have is leveraging my position in LA and my job running Spylight.com to educate the public about entomophagy. Most people don’t know that bugs are edible. That’s the basic message I want to convey. The events I host seek to explore this in a variety of ways. There are a few different strategies for marketing edible insects that are growing in popularity:
- Marketing to athletes
- “Trojan horsing” insects in comfortable foods like protein bars, cookies, pancakes…
- Focusing on getting people who would already eat edible insects to eat more of them (this is when it’s ok to serve whole worms or crickets).
Once people get over the mental barrier of trying insects, they’re normally blown away by the taste. Not only are insects “not that bad.” In fact, most of my friends that have tried insects for the first time want a second serving immediately. Insects have incredible culinary potential (in fact – one of my favorite foods across the board is scorpions!)
I’m excited to challenge the way people think about their food. Top chefs all over the world are making use of the diverse flavors of insects, and we hope to showcase some of those flavors to LA at the tasting.
While there’s a growing awareness around the health and environmental benefits of eating bugs, we cannot overlook their potential as gourmet ingredients. Bugs have delicate and diverse flavor profiles that top chefs are only beginning to explore. Insects can be enjoyed as gourmet ingredients, much like fine cheeses. We’ll showcase the diversity in flavors: a scorpion is basically a land lobster and pairs very well with a more acidic Sauvignon Blanc, while silk worms can have an earthy umami flavor and pair nicely with a full bodied Zinfandel. The tasting will not be for everyone, but those that come with an open mind and empty stomach are in for a treat.
Do chefs and restaurants already cook with insects?
What’s your favorite bug to eat, and how do you prepare it?
Any thoughts on why insects seem so disgusting? Are they really so different than other creatures many of us commonly consume?
Perceptions around EDIBILITY is one of the biggest factors in acceptance of insects as food. “Edibility” is not a fixed or inherent property, but rather something that is constructed and negotiated by a huge range of influences.
Social, cultural, market, linguistic, and other forces work together to categorize items as “eat me” or “don’t eat me.” Let’s play a game. I’ll list pairs of similar things and you have to figure out what is edible and what is not: plants & vegetables, livestock & pets, snails & escargot… We have insects, but we might need a better classification for EDIBLE insects.
The majority of studies on consumer acceptable of insects as food focus largely on the individual: individual attitudes, preferences, or traits associated with one’s inclination to consume insects. Naturally there is a degree of variability within individuals on the degree of impact different cognitive factors – like disgust sensitivity or food neophobia – have on acceptance. These studies, however, focus too much on individual choice at the point of consumption, emphasizing cognitive rather than contextual factors. This type of work holds that consumer attitudes or responses are relatively consistent across different social contexts, and downplays the extent to which food consumption – in the context of ‘real life’ mundane eating practices – is influenced by social factors and the products themselves. Food consumption can arise from the intersection of a variety of other practices such as work, school, care, socializing, and friend groups. A shift in emphasis away from individual attitudes and preferences towards a more contextually embedded, practical reality of food consumption may better illuminate reasons for consumer willingness to accept insects as edible. Or: social situations surrounding eating might be better indicators of a newbie’s willingness to try insects than her unique set of cognitive predispositions.
What do bugs taste like?
I have a super old blog post on this. I’ll update it soon for you. But in the meantime… read “What Do Insects Taste Like“?