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Patrick Murphy

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Buggin' Out: Urban Bug Farming for the Future

In many cultures eating insects is more than a delicacy – it’s a food staple. However, the use of bugs as a mainstream ingredient is a foreign idea in the developed world. As the human population continues to grow, we have to think about how to feed people. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has shown interest in using insects as an alternative food source. Due to their high concentration of the eight essential amino acids, vitamin B12, riboflavin, vitamin A, amazingly efficient converters that leave a much smaller environmental impact on the planet than cattle.

Once technologies are developed to produce insect-based food ingredients they can be incorporated into numerous food products. They would make great protein substitutes as any food additives to cereal, snack bars, or traditional meals. The high nutritional value, probiotic potential, and affordable price are just a few reasons why many Asian and Latin restaurants already offer insects on their menu.

Rethinking the urban farm and how to deal with the upcoming need to increase food supplies, Claire Lemarchand is planning a series of cricket farms to be placed throughout cities, that go beyond just growing bugs. Crickets are bred in cylindrical units surrounding a light source, to optimize yield, and are fed fresh food waste from the market and surrounding restaurants. While at night, the cricket farming units double as an urban lighting system.

Is urban bug farming a valid food source strategy? What other ideas could be implemented into our food supply networks? Or, could push the boundaries of urban farming and sustainable food sources to better prepare for future food demands?

Why Insects Should Be in Your Diet By Aaron T. Dossey

The Cricket Bigger Than Beef By Claire Lemarchand

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    Jun 4 2013: I've eaten quite a few bugs intentionally and unintentionally, and I think crickets are the best I've had. In class today I was tracing my interest in eating insects, and I think it goes back to the Lion King. I'll bet this clip planted a seed in most of our young brains that insects are cool to eat http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqREvb2VTjw
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      Jun 4 2013: Maybe other kids could also be inspired to eat bugs by the Lion King. As others have said, I think the mental block we have developed due to the US culture is the biggest obstacle we face for incorporating insects into our diet. I think that making food products where you can't see/tell that it contains insects would be the most effective way of getting people to eat them (ground up in cereal bars?). I think a lot of clever advertising would need to be done in order to sell such products. Maybe the next popular protein bar could have crickets in it!

      Do you think that the crickets would be a disturbance due to their chirping at night? I don't know if I would want live near the cricket farms/lights...
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        Jun 4 2013: It would be super cool to see a partnership between a major food producer and a large animation company (such as Disney or Pixar) to start working on insect promotion in kids' diets.
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          Jun 4 2013: Yeah! That's definitely along the lines of what I was thinking. If kids saw relatable a human character enjoying eating some delicious bugs, they might be more inclined to eat some as well. The fear of eating bugs is not inherent, so we just have to promote consuming insects before US culture gets to kids. Changing culture is hard!
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        Jun 4 2013: I would love to see cricket protein bars! I think they would be really popular once people saw Brad and Angelina feeding them to their kids.

        I think the fear of eating certain bugs might be inherent. Slimy worms might make me throw up, and hairy spiders give me the heebie jeebies, but crickets and grasshoppers are basically land shrimp. In China it is common to eat scorpions, but of course they remove the stinger. I'd like to try spicy fried scorpion.
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    Jun 5 2013: The visual appeal is definitely the biggest hurdle I see in getting bug eating onto the mainstream market. There are ways to get around this, if you have solid justification behind why bug eating is clearly better than other meats, but I'm not sure there is a strong enough argument here.

    Let's break down the nutritional facts for a second. The average cricket weighs 0.6 ounces. If we convert to grams, it would take about 7 crickets to have 100 grams (the average serving size for a piece of meat). Most people could probably stomach 7 crickets, so luckily the issue is not that you have to consume unreasonable quantities in order to gain any nutritional value. However, in 100 grams of crickets there is only 6.7 grams of protein and an impressive 562 calories (according to Bay Area Bug Eating Society). Compared to the same amount of chicken, which has 21 grams of protein, roughly the same amount of fat, and only 172 calories, the nutritional value here is not in the bugs' favor. Crickets do out rank chicken in terms of other nutrients like iron, but so do plenty of vegetables. There are other insects like caterpillars and large spiders that offer better protein levels, though these insects are even less appetizing in my opinion.

    For some areas of the world that don't have access to meats or are restricted by religious and cultural beliefs, insects are a fine source of nutrition. But, I don't think we all need to jump on the bandwagon just yet and go bananas for bugs. A push to more sustainable agricultural practices will solve many of our current woes, including overproduction. Slowing down the food production process I think will lead to less overproduction and less waste. In terms of food demands, we have more than enough food in the world to support its entire population. So why are so many people still starving worldwide? There is a huge problem in how food is distributed and who is allowed access to food.
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      Jon Cox

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      Jun 5 2013: Great post! It is easy to get caught up in a new idea that appears to be just the ticket. Eating insects is not going to solve anything on its own, but it is possibly part of a solution. From what I can tell, if a portion of the typical western consumption of beef was replaced by an equivalent protein intake from insects, there would be some positive environmental impacts. Will eating bugs fix the food problems of the world? Nope, but there is lots of evidence suggesting that integrating insect protein into diets of developed nations is at least a small step in the right direction.
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        Jun 5 2013: John! you are exactly right, and I think that's a constant controversy when talking about food scarcity. We are looking for the short cut, easiest way to manipulate the environment for our benefit. This is an inconceivable method for solving something as complex as food production. As we learn from ecology and biodiversity, it is a combination of innumerable factors that creates a healthy ecosystem and it can be done on farms as well. Miguel Medialdea from Veta la Palma in Spain has managed to create the perfect farming environment where there are no negatives from the farming. Not too mention the outstanding benefits that result from his fish farm; actually purifying the water, bringing more diversity into the ecosystem, and the magic part, he doesn't even feed his fish. 100% unfed fish are raised in this natural sustainable farm. These kind of practices are what we really need more than the single save all food solution that everyone keeps desperately searching for.
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      Jun 5 2013: I'm so surprised that 100 grams of crickets has so many calories in it. Are there any other insects that have a smaller caloric value closer to chicken? I think, besides it being insects, that this could make people hesitant to eating them, especially since obesity is so prevalent nowadays and eating healthy and exercising is such a fad right now. I think maybe in developing nations where famine is more common this could be a good option. Insects are found everywhere, so growing them would not be too hard.

      I think we have to switch to a more plant-based diet. Insects are a good idea for getting some protein and other nutrients, but I do not think that it will replace cattle. Instead, it will probably just become another option on a menu as it becomes more acceptable, at least in developed nations.
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        Jun 5 2013: I got those stats from this website: http://www.planetscott.com/babes/nutrition.asp
        I cannot attest to the accuracy of the source, but, not knowing anything about bug nutrition, I can only assume these are good estimates. I found another source that doesn't list calories, but fat and protein levels in bugs and different types of meat. The trend there was the same: about the same amount of fat (except in beef and pork) but double the amount of protein. My initial thought when researching was that, because crickets are so small, you would have to eat a ton of them to reach the same amount of traditional meat and that would be a big turn off. Eating one cricket is fine, but 30 or 40? No thanks! Fortunately, and a surprise to me, it looks like that is not the case.

        Switching to a plant-based diet would be ideal, and better for overall health. I don't think we need to eliminate meat from the diet altogether, just be more conscious of where it comes from and how it is made. My family and I make a personal choice to buy meat and dairy products only from free range, grass fed cows farmed locally. Same goes for chicken (cage-free eggs, vegetarian feed). It is healthier to eat, more humane for the animals, and supports local, sustainable agriculture. It is more expensive, but worth it our opinion. If we incentivize this type of farming, feedlots will go away and it will become cheaper for everyone to have organic food. If you can stomach it, I highly recommend to you all the film Food, Inc. It highlights all the problems of conventional agriculture and its impact on human and animal health. It's funny how something as natural as raising a cow in a field of grass and not pumping it full of hormones and antibiotics is now such a foreign and stigmatized concept in the food industry.
  • Jun 4 2013: P.S : I found "canned Bundaeggi" in the one of local Asian markets in Eugene!!!
    Look like this----->http://koreanfoodcrime.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/bundaegi1.jpg
    If you want, I will buy one can, and try it in our class tomorrow as a novel experiment ;-)
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      Jun 4 2013: please do! I am going to bring in a surprise edible bug for people to try tomorrow. we should have a bug buffet!
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    Jun 4 2013: I think this is a great idea and, being in America during our social media era, all a topic like this needs is some sort of social media trend for it to take off. Think about the organic era that started about five or so years ago, a small community of people started out eating organically or "green" until it became a national trend in which now there are entire grocery/food supply stores dedicated to eating organically. Because eating insects, as the two sources you provided stated, can have extremely healthy benefits including high-protein and low fat potentials for humans if consumed, I think if some small community (espcially a if it were the younger generation) began experimenting with eating insects and started seeing positive outcomes, this is something I could definitely see the United States taken part in. The only question is if there are enough people out there to be brave enough to take part in this idea, and, whether or not it would become widely available or not.

    Also, like most organisms within the animal kingdom during this century, there is concern about the loss/extinction of insect species due to many things (mostly human activity). Knowing how important insects are to the over food chain (without thinking about us humans starting to munch on them), biodiversity, and ecosystem health across the world, if humans began eating insects regularly and there becomes a demand for a stable healthy insect population, using societies consumeristic and demand habits, it could be beneficial for insect population stability, and indirectly ecosystem health, and overall environmental biodiversty. Let's us our selfish needs in a reverse psychology way to save the planet!

    Heres a popular media website on endangerment to insects: http://www.endangeredspeciesinternational.org/insects5.html

    Also, heres an article about the high protein/low fat potential when eating insects:
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      Jun 5 2013: I agree John, this is a great idea! Growing up in Germany in the 50’s I learned a lot about hard times, and a lot about what bugs tasted the best! LOL! I think that other posters are right when they say that Americans probably won't like the idea of eating bugs at first. Maybe we could start off with using the bugs to feed people who otherwise can’t afford good protein like beef or chicken. In fact, I see these urban bug farms as a way to eliminate the homeless problem in cities too! The homeless people could live and work on the farms where they would be provided with payment in the form of shelter and food, all while showing people that bugs are safe to eat, and tasty too!
      I can tell you from experience that bugs taste just like fried chicken, so I’m sure that most of the homeless people in my city would just love to eat them! LOL!

      God Bless

      -Todd C.
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    Jun 4 2013: When I was little, somewhere around 6 or 7, the Exploratorium in San Francisco had a special exhibit that featured edible bugs. Maybe it helped a little bit that I was a tom boy but I was super excited to try and eat something that was usually so taboo to ingest.
    All that I remember eating were ants and a scorpion, although I'm sure there were other things to try. And they were good! I think now I would be much more hesitant to try something like that for the first time, as our social values of not eating bugs have been ingrained in me.
    The exhibit was not necessarily a push for people to start eating bugs all the time but it did highlight the fact that in other cultures consuming bugs is quite common. It was a great place and way to introduce to children an alternative to the sigma we have grown up with. I think if we do want to make eating bugs a common thing in society it should definitely start with educating kids about it.

    Here is an article about the exhibit and the man behind it.
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      Jun 4 2013: Yeah, actually, I had an experience kind of like that, where at a market/faire thing I went to when I was little there was a man who was selling different kinds of roasted bugs, and I think I tried curry crickets or something? They were surprisingly good. I do think that kind of thing brought really good attention and raised awareness to the fact that many cultures regularly eat bugs and that it's a normal thing to do. Which I think is pretty cool.

      Personally, I can't yet see myself eating bugs as a staple of my diet and a main protein source, but I do think it's a good idea in general to start looking at things like eating bugs as an alternative food source, as the current food production methods on this planet are seriously harming the environment. I really agree that introducing kids to bug eating early is going to be key if this is ever going to be a viable option.
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    Jun 4 2013: I think my cultural hesitation to eating bugs differs from most people in our class and our country. I can see the potential environmental benefits compared to other forms of meat production, which make a very compelling argument, but I can't help but think about the vast quantities of lives that will be exploited for food. I was raised Buddhist, and thus was taught that all sentient beings are valuable. Though my brother eats meat, he tries to eat beef more often than chicken because one cow can feed more people. The cultural barrier I face stems from the sheer number of bugs that will be raised to be food.

    If the concern is using land more efficiently to feed people, the answer is simple to me: vegetarianism.

    Here's an interesting and short article about different vegan/vegetarian responses to insect eating: http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/eating-insects-vegans-and-vegetarians-weigh-in
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      Jun 5 2013: This is a good cultural point I hadn't thought of at all, thanks for sharing that side. However, in the wild, a "natural death" is probably pretty rare for insects, they are primary consumers that countless food webs are built on, so perhaps their value is the nutrition they offer to beings higher up on the food chain.

      Also the level of "sentience" possessed by insects is more comparable to that of a plant than a mammal (plants can respond to stimuli a lot more than some think). To eat anything means extinguishing lives, and i don't know if i think the "soul" of an insect is that much different from that of a veggie, just that insects can move.

      I'm certainly not arguing your views, just sort of pontificating on the matter myself. I suppose this is more of a philosophical, rather than scientific conversation anyway.
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        Jun 5 2013: Hi Ben! I appreciate your response.

        Of course the argument can be made that a natural death would be rare for an insect, or that humans evolved to be omnivores, but my philosophy is that if I can still be healthy (and better to the environment at that) and not eat animals, then I shouldn't.

        Yes, philosophical, but definitely interesting. And on the scientific end of things, there's certainly an argument to be made for straight vegetarianism.
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    Jon Cox

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    Jun 4 2013: Relevant video


    Hour long BBC doc about eating insects. The host is mildly irritating but otherwise it's pretty interesting. To me the best part is about 10 minutes in where he visits a school and all the kids contribute crickets that they caught the night before to the days lunch. Eye opening.
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    Jun 4 2013: I was really surprised by the amount of protein that is actually found in insects. A caterpillar has up to 28.2 g of protein which is even more a lean ground beef (27.4g). A caterpillar seems relatively harmless in regards to out-competing other insects and become an invasive species if insect farming were to exploded worldwide. But what about other insects? A giant water beetle has 19.8g of protein but it an intense predator of aquatic crustaceans, fish, and amphibians. Amphibians are already at risk for population decline due to infectious disease and other factors, do we want to put them at more risk? While insect farming may be a good idea for certain insect species it may not be a good idea for all species.

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      Jun 5 2013: I think your right, there are going to be some bugs that are nutritious but will cause harm to the environment and their surroundings. Research and studies need to be performed before allowing complete urban bug farming to occur. Wow those statistics are crazy by the way, did they list what chicken or fish or pork was compared to bugs as far as nutritional value?
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        Jun 5 2013: When I looked it up 140g of chicken is about 43g of proteins so clearly chicken is superior. Fish is about 28g of protein for every 100g which is very comparable to certain insects. But in geographic locations where chicken or fish isn't readily available, I could see insects being used as a viable source of protein.
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    Jun 5 2013: I found this paper written by FAO on edible insects. If people have the time I suggest reading it.

  • Jun 5 2013: it is so interesting idea,,,Most insects are rich in protein (40-60 percent) and fat (10-15 percent). Adult insects sometimes requires removal of hard skin before it can be fried or roasted (fried without oil). Either in the form of insect larvae or caterpillars young insects (often called a caterpillar) can be cooked immediately.
    it is just a good idea furthurmore we can make some varieties of insects cooking in order the people wants to eat it such as delicious food
    In boom times a few years ago crickets, crickets fried, roasted crickets and dent produced and bought and sold as a side dish in several regions in Indonesia. Similar in Bangkok crickets, cockroaches and even a certain kind of well in the form of adult insects and their eggs, has been commonly consumed for certain segments of society. Children in Thailand to collect eggs for a certain kind of fried cockroaches. Grasshoppers and crickets are also roasted and fried in Papua New Guinea.
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    Jun 5 2013: Personally, i couldn't eat bugs. The very thought of it triggers my gag reflex.

    I am however fine with other people eating bugs. They are a good protein source and could act as a readily available source too.

    Lastly, why do we have a need for high protein sources that animals or insects?
    As far as I am concerned, Tofu is a complete protein and can satiate the growing needs of the world for protein sources and furthermore it would allow the reduction in the amount of last used for other protein sources which aren't plants and therefore waste more energy.
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      Jun 5 2013: Tofu is made out of soy milk and thus soy beans. The production of soy beans globally requires massive amounts of energy due to poor production practices and results in extreme environmental degradation, negative social impacts, and affects human health. Soy is already one of the highest produced crops globally and is a major cash crop. One case study of the affects that soy production has had on an area is Brazil. The Cerrado region lost around 86 thousand square kilometers of native vegetation between 2002 and 2010 due to the production of soy. Also around 586 thousand hectares of the Amazon forest have been cleared to produce soy. Such intense amounts of pesticides are used that a study in Mato Grosso revealed 2 to 6 different pesticides in the milk of breast feeding mothers. Soy production in Brazil has also led to extreme land conflicts with indigenous populations leading to increased suicide, death, and malnutrition. These types of negative affects can be seen in other places that produce soy as a cash crop as well. It's important that we understand the impacts of all the food sources we use.
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        Jun 5 2013: Thank you for bringing up that some of the food sources that we already depend on, are not as beneficial as popular media has made them out to be. Vegetarians tend to use popular media in this way to promote plant diets, even though many of our crops may turn out to be healthier for individuals it is globally damaging the earth to produce these crops. Despite that plants are primary producers and receive and transfer energy best, they heavily rely upon human maintenance. Insects may not be primary producers, but their variable diet allows them to feed on nearly any bio-waste, they use less water and require almost no maintenance. Thanks to the immense biodiversity among insects, different species can be raised in their natural environments, in sustainable ways that benefit the environment.

        Also I actually find tofu disgusting, but have been able to eat it on occasion when cooked in certain ways. The same can be and will be done for bugs when they are introduced into meals. I think this has been one of the bigger problems people have getting over the idea of eating bugs. Even though Simba in the Lion King made it cool to eat bugs they also engrained this idea that they are eaten raw. I don't think that's true about almost any food we eat, and so i would hope that interesting cooking recipes would be created.
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          Jun 5 2013: I am a vegetarian and I eat tofu such as other vegetarians. I think it a great source of protein for those that choose this diet. I certainly do not want to get into a debate on whether meat eaters or vegetarians have more of an impact on the land but I do want to respond. Cattle and other livestock are just as damaging if not more so than soy. We have over 2 billion cattle on this planet filling up land that could be used for crops and producing a ton of methane that is contributing to global warming. Rainforests and other areas have been converted to land for livestock which is destroying biodiversity in these ares. On top of having to have the land to raise the cattle and other livestock we have to feed them as well. About 800 million people could be fed instead of this feed going to livestock.

          With all this said. I definitely eating bugs is a viable and reasonable place to take humans. Being a vegetarian I personally will not partake in the eating of the bugs but I think if we can reduce livestock and return to a more natural system than we have, we could greatly reduce the rapid speed of global warming and decrease so much destruction of the land.
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      Jun 5 2013: Just to comment on the "why do we have a need for high protein sources that animals or insects?" We don't. I am vegan and rarely eat tofu. Yes I do consume some soy products but I try to stay away from them for reasons like Monsanto and the fact that most soy products are highly processed. There are plenty of grains and vegetables that contain high amounts of protein and we do not need to consume animal protein. But if the entire world decided to all the sudden go vegetarian or vegan, we would need a high increase in produce which would take up land, water, and let's face it, chemicals. For future we need to think of some food source that will take up less water and space. Bugs are the prefect compromise. I understand that it can be hard to stomach the idea of eating bugs, cause I am personally not too fond of the idea, but if I were presented with bug tacos, or a bug lasagna I bet it would taste great! And it is all a cultural thing. If we try I bet we can get the idea of eating bugs to be no problem in twenty or thirty years
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    Jun 5 2013: One thing that might stigmatize the transition towards a insect heavy diet is the creepiness of eating the entirety of the organism. Is it safe to eat the whole bug? Does it need to be processed or cleaned? In our modern lifestyles a slice of bacon looks nothing like the greater animal, the pig. We do not associate a steak with the image of a cow... only a part of it. In our diets the meat and poultry we eat are usually not associated with the whole organism that it came from.
    If we were to sell dried spiders at a market there would definitely be a "gross" factor that would need to be overcame before mass consumption became a reality. I think insects could and should be a greater part of our diets yet, many hurdles need to be tackled before this becomes a reality. Preparation needs to be paramount to make a visually unpleasant food into something delicious warranting the, "oh it's not so bad" praise. If we as a society can discover ways to prepare and present nutritious and delicious insects I would definitely be a supporter of this movement. It may be possible to incorporate bugs that are more "likeable" than others into our diets first as the start of a transition towards a diet including insects. For example, fried crickets might be more pleasing and fun to eat than something squishy, gooey or hard to prepare organisms. I'm excited for the future of bugs in our diets, not only would it help alleviate food shortage but it might add to our already amazing culinary world!
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      Jun 5 2013: I agree that there has to be some sort of dissociation from the organism. I could not get myself to eat an entire bug whole, but may be inclined to eat some for of bug steak or something along those lines
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    Jun 5 2013: One thing that I don’t think anyone mentioned yet was how eating insects may be more keeping in tune with how we evolved to eat. The Paleolithic diet advocates consuming large amounts of meat because during the ice age (one sliver of our evolutionary history), we supposedly ate lots of meat so that is what our bodies are built for. However, the fatty muscle tissue we consume today is nothing like what our ancestors ate for the large majority of our evolutionary history. This Scientific American article explains how nearly all of our human ancestors were vegetarian (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/07/23/human-ancestors-were-nearly-all-vegetarians/).

    If people really wanted to eat what our ancestors ate, they would be consuming insects as their primary animal protein source and eating considerable amounts of vegetation.

    Also, we evolved from this :) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/evolution/9856081/Humans-evolved-from-furry-insect-eating-creature.html
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      Jun 5 2013: More ideas like this need to be brought to light since so many people don't understand the significance of an ancient diet. People have begun to work on bringing back parts of our historical diet, and that can be seen with the surge in organic and natural diets. I think this could be the next step and some important societal figures could help to make this diet popular.
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    Jun 5 2013: Yeah! I figure that cricket protein bars could be marketed towards a sporty audience too. People seem to be willing to try a lot to promote muscle growth. Move over Muscle Milk!

    As for the worms...
    A quote from Jaueck's post: "One of [the insects I have eaten] was Stag beetle larvae deep fried. It just tasted like “Cream cheeeese puff!!!” For sure, sometimes, it tasted weird such as Bundaeggi (silkworm chrysalis) in the Korea." Just like a cream puff!, doesn't sound so bad! haha
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      Jun 5 2013: I like that idea, because they are willing to try anything if they think it will help their athletic development. I'm not sure, but I feel like there have to be certain species of bugs that contain rare essential amino acids, or hormones that could help with training. Marketing bugs in a new light such as that could help it become a more mainstream commodity.
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      Jun 5 2013: Good idea! SO many people would love it!
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      Jun 5 2013: That's a great idea, it was the first thing I thought of when reading another comment that stated that cricket has comparable protein to beef, per mass, but about 1/3 the calories. That's pretty incredible! It's tough to eat enough protein to build muscle while not eating at too large a calorie surplus to gain fat- doable, but you have to really watch your diet. Having a low calorie high protein source like that would make it so much easier. Also using insect protein ground up in bars or drinks would reduce the "gross" factor since you don't have to look at the creepy crawlies you're about to eat.
      Top Notch.
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    Jun 4 2013: One thing to keep in mind when considering bringing in undomesticated species as a food source is the potential for them to go invasive. It would be best if the harvested bugs were native to their region because it would be awful if a certain species was brought over and ended up devouring our crops or something of the sort. If all the potential drawbacks were worked out, I think bug harvesting would be great for the future, especially with insects’ ability to reproduce quickly and in mass numbers. I would imagine they would go well with sushi. Here are some pictures of how insects can be incorporated into Japanese dining: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/howaboutthat/3526527/Insect-sushi-creepy-crawly-cuisine.html

    This conversation also reminded me of the old lollipops they used to sell in some stores that had the insects in the center. Anyone remember eating these as a kid?: http://carofranck.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/insect-lollipop1.jpg
    Making another push at some type of campaign for kids like this would be cool to see.

    It is also important to consider that on average insects can produce 1 kilogram of meat from 2 kilograms of feed, whereas cattle require 8 kilograms to produce 1 kilogram of meat. Thus, harvesting insects is much less resource intensive. (http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/u-n-eat-bugs-good-good-world-article-1.1342532)
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      Jun 5 2013: Definitely! Maybe people can import or export bugs as pickled or dried what we usually do for vegetables and meat.
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    Jun 4 2013: Many of us arent aware of the fact that we eat bugs everyday. The FDA allows chocolate to contain 60 insect components/100g, peanut butter can contain 30 insects parts/100g. These are just the beginning of all the products that contain bugs, all processed food contains insects. What i would be concerned about is insect farms exploding all over and creating fast and cheaper insects by giving them genetically altered food that will make them bigger and able to produce more protein. If we can make sure that we dont over exploit insects like we do almost everything else than adding insects to our diets may be extremely beneficial.
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      Jun 5 2013: I agree with you Cori, but I also think the over exploitation of insects is going to be inevitable if we start producing them as a food source because it will be fast and cheap.

      In the U.S. we kind of already do use bugs as a food source. Chocolate covered ants and chocolate covered grasshoppers can be bought at specialty stores and they're actually not that bad. I think that bug farms can be extremely beneficial in our diets once people get over the gross factor and realize that bugs can taste pretty good. As children most of us have probably eaten our fair share of insects, I know I have. It wasn't gross to us then, so why does it become so gross as we grow older?
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      Jun 5 2013: Good point! I wish it does not happen!
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    Mario R

    • +1
    Jun 4 2013: While bug farming does seem like a promising relief to the heavy demand placed on livestock protein sources, I can't help but think of the effect that this might have on the safety of consuming insects. For example, countries in South East Asia have been known to abstain from consuming due to evidence of pesticides in the insects. Are there ways we could make certain that insects being reared for consumption do not come into contact with pesticides? If not, are there safe levels of pesticide consumption or should insects that have come into contact with pesticides be avoided altogether?

    Although I do see the benefits of consuming insects, and I think they are indeed a valuable alternative, we also need to think about the consequences of entomophagy. What kind of problems might be posed by the over breeding of some insects? Could they potentially escape their farm and have drastic negative effects on neighboring communities of insects or crops? If entomophagy were to become globally practiced, would demand strain rarer species of bugs leading to possible extinction of exotic bug species?

    Another question I had is what kind of shelf life do insects have? Are they even a conceivable introduction into western culture where we demand convenience over freshness? At what point do bacteria start to grow in postmortem insects making them unfit for consumption? I found an article that discussed preservation methods for insects, but they still found some bacteria that could grow in the insects even with discussed preservation methods.

    As people have already discussed, cultural barriers are huge in establishing an insect farming industry. However, I believe that we need to look at addressing often overlooked problems that might arise from insect farming.


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      Jun 5 2013: I have been wondering that same thing with pesticides, because it seems to be one of the larger issues with eating bugs. However, I feel like enclosed farms, similar to what can be seen at the Zebrafish International Research Center, would make farming bugs much more feasible, pesticide-free, and have a very low level of escapement.

      There are a lot of questions about how a cultural change such as this might begin to affect the biodiversity of lands that begin to farm them. However, because of the immense number of insect species, I feel that we would not be able to alter the global insect biodiversity by enough compared to what it will save in flora and other fauna species.
  • Jun 4 2013: Theoretically, eating insects as protein source would be affordable idea because it has better protein ingredient contained and less natural sources required to grow.
    However, there are several application issues. Many people oppose to eat insects because of the nice exoskeleton looking. Let me tell my some personal experiences. I have traveled a lot and occasionally I have chances to eat insects that are locally considered famous and delicious cousins. Well, what I thought was there was a reason why they liked it so let’s try. One of them was Stag beetle larvae deep fried. It just tasted like “Cream cheeeese puff!!!” For sure, sometimes, it tasted weird such as Bundaeggi (silkworm chrysalis) in the Korea. For me, appearance-wise, it seems really similar to shrimp or crab. “Think it is just a land shrimp or crab and eat, it would be not big matter.” But the real issue, that is under-assumed, is a distinctive odor. It is so special and strong enough to be hard to hide under seasonings unless buried into seasonings for a while. In order to spread such the consumption insects as food, I think it is required to remove such special odor.
    You may think that “then, why don’t we just eat non-special odor insects. Well, it would be good idea. It is easy to grow in urban area because it needs less area than a cow. However, it may cause ecological issues. We have heard about foreign species invasion and they have destroyed local ecosystem. Many of them are once introduced as food or other reasons like pet. If they are ensured in closed facilities, it would be okay but they escaped and spread out. Nutria, snakehead are the good example. They have imported as food sources, but escaped and spread out in local nature.
    Then my question is that “are we sure that such the edible insects won’t harm local ecosystem when they are escaped?” insects are smaller than conventional farm animals which mean it is much higher chances to escape from farms.
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      Jun 5 2013: Haha!! I love silkworm! I used to eat it since I was young, so I do not feel disgusted when I see it; actually it makes my mouth watery! In fact, I have two cans of silkworm in my kitchen.
      My boyfriend was shocked when he saw me eating the worm. Haha.
      I think that as Dr. Green pointed out in the class, the culture contributes the behavior and belief that can be accepted or not. Eating silkworm is normal in Korea, but many people in US would give me an weird look when I eat silkworm!
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    Jun 4 2013: Although I can never accept or attempt to eat bugs, we have to admit that insects contain high proteins and can be delicious snacks in different cultures. In China, most people do not eat insects as normal food but some minorities or small towns have insects as their snacks. And insects food begin to flow into big city snack markets these years. For instance, you can try it in Beijing Donghuamen Night market. There are many creepy crawlers food on sell. http://www.followmefoodie.com/2012/10/beijing-china-eating-bugs-spiders-centipedes-on-donghuamen-night-market/

    However, why such delicious and nutrient food is not as popular as pork or beef? I think there are several reasons. First, many people feel scare and disgusting about it. Although it has died, many people still feel afraid to put it into mouth. Secondly, many people think it may contain some infectious diseases. Like flies and mosquitos, insects are always as tools of transporting infectious diseases. People who pay attention to food hygiene do not want to eat insects. Thirdly, some insects are detrimental to vegetations, so cultivation of them is not a good idea.
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    Jun 4 2013: The UN actually just put out a report last month on the advantages to eating bugs and which ones are beneficial. ( http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e.pdf ) The idea of eating bugs is something that is hard to accept. Maybe if we process them or prepare them in ways that make them not look like bugs will help to get past the stigma of eating a bug. Just like the rest of our meat doesn't look like an actual animal but also it is widely accepted that high protein, high fat diets are ok. But they are truely detrimental to our health including issues like heart disease, high colesterol, high blood pressure and even seizures.
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      Jon Cox

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      Jun 4 2013: Here's a video clip put out by the FAO for their insect eating initiative

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        Jun 4 2013: That video is extremely cool, i like how casually that guy just started eating those worm tacos. This is the kind of mentality that more people need to get used to eating bugs.

        It seems that this perveption of our food seems to be the biggest issue. Eating bugs is not that much harder to grasp when you realize many people don't like to know where on the animal their steak came from. They like what the steak looks like when its done and ready to eat, and if we could do the same to bug meat so people can't tell where that meat comes from(processed bugs or protein extracts), then we can start to culturally accept the idea of eating bugs as a meal.
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          Jun 4 2013: Yeah. I think that casual depiction of eating insects is vital to the success of this idea. It needs to be portrayed and observed in a way that appears normal, not ridiculous Fear Factor gross out reactions.
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    Jun 4 2013: You know if more people watched The Lion King, bugs would probably be more acceptable. That movie is awesome.

    Anyways, it's possible that insects are already subtly included in many foods we eat. I cannot find a news (or any official) source for this, but according to many websites there are an average of eight bug legs in a piece of candy or chocolate bar. Think about that the next time you pull out your midday candy snack! I don't think people cope with the fact that we consume bugs all the time. Not to freak anybody out even further, but we swallow a non-zero amount of bugs (particularly spiders) while we sleep and it is not dangerous or unhealthy at all!

    Even the United Nations seems to think bugs are a great alternative source of various nutrients, supposedly a good replacement for "chicken, pork, beef, and even fish." Additionally, bugs produce very few greenhouse gasses (especially compared to cattle), are easy to grow and maintain (due to short generation cycles). The only counterargument against eating bugs is that they tend to taste inferior to conventional foods, understandably. However I believe with a few spices, refined cooking techniques, and public education regarding the benefits of eating insects, humans can create a larger market for bug eating that will not only save us money but will also help our planet.

  • Jun 4 2013: My mother had a dog that just loved to eat certain worms. I'll wait a bit to try them.
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      Jon Cox

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      Jun 4 2013: The dog knew what's up!
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    Eun Min

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    Jun 4 2013: I guess this would be a great way to feed people that is estimated 9 billion people by 2050 (1). As we know and many researchers work on how to restore nature and feed people as the population growing, the disturbed biodiversity and environment are hard to be restored. Especially, desertification contributes a serious problem to feed people that the soil in desert is not a good resource to grow vegetables. However, eating insects might be a hope to feed 9 billion people without nutrient deficiency that most insects have enough nutrients what human needed. In 100 gram of crickets, 12.9 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of fat, 5.1 grams of carbohydrates, and 75.8 milligram of calcium and all sorts of other nutritional delights are contained which can be converted to 121 calories (2). Eating insects is not only good for nutrient intake which might help agriculture.
    I am from South Korea, and grasshopper used to be a popular snack until 1980's which might be due to the change from agriculture based country to industrialization, a developing country. The land conversion or less farming led a decreased insect population including biodiversity. "Grasshoppers are a major pest of both cultivated crops and rangeland grasses in the world's semi-arid regions (3)." Thus, capturing and eating grasshopper can help to produce better crop in quality and quantity.
    (1) Huis, A. V., Itterbeeck, J. V., Klunder, H., Mertens, E., Halloran, A., Muir, G., Vantomme, P., Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security, Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 2013
    (2) http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/05/15/fight-world-hunger-by-eating-bugs-urges-u-n/
    (3) http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex6463
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      Jun 5 2013: I really like the idea of eating insects that are bad for the agricultural industry. Not only would we be lessening the demands for other proteins like beef, chicken, etc., but we would also reduce the amount of pesticides being used to get rid of those bugs. Cool idea!
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    Jun 4 2013: I think people need to start eating lower on the food chain, and bugs would be a great place to start. Approximately 6 kg of plant protein is needed for the production of 1 kg of animal protein, and the production of beef and lamb is the most energy intensive meat to produce (1). Because the palate of people in developed nations tends to favor these types of protein rich foods, we use an enormous amount of energy to raise livestock as a food source. If everyone on the world consumed as much meat as Americans, we would need to produce about 550 million tons of meat per year, which is not sustainable (2).

    Because insects are lower on the food chain than livestock, their production would require substantially less energy, in theory. Even though I couldn't find much scientific research about the energy production of insect farming, one source stated that insect farming would be ten times more sustainable than beef production (3).

    Although there are obvious cultural barriers preventing the consumption of bugs, I think insect farming could be a viable option in the future. Because energy prices are likely to increase in the next few decades, there will be a higher demand for cheap protein sources, and insects can possibly fill that demand!

    (1) http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/660S.full
    (2) http://ecosalon.com/what-if-everybody-ate-like-americans/
    (3) http://ozarker.org/go-eat-bugs/
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      Jun 4 2013: Good point Krista! We should start to eat from lower food chain. In Taiwan, we have a dish that involve bees larval. I have tired it but have no special feeling toward it. In addition, I think if we give kids to try eating insects when they are young, it will be more acceptable to eat insects in the future if they have tried them before.

      I think urban bugs farming definitely will work because it takes less land than cattle and more sustainable than livestock, like you have said above. Their food does not need large amount of transportation (for example corns for cattle has large carbon footprint). They are easy to cultural and raise in dense urban areas. Moreover, people will be more willing to eat bugs that they know bugs come from clean and "licensed" bug farms so that we can get away from traditional culture thinking that "insects are full of bacteria and pathogens".

      A fun article to read from National Geographic about 10 insects to start trying bugs eating:
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      Jun 4 2013: Good points Krista. I think that an even more important advantage to the farming of insects than the reduced energy required would be the great reduction of damage to the environment compared with traditional raising of livestock. As we discussed in class ranching or any kind of animal food production uses a lot of land and causes a lot of damage to natural environments and the biodiversity thereof through clearing and other processes (1). Hopefully raising insects for food would have a lower impact, and I have to think that if it was a mostly urban endeavor it probably would!

      1. http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM
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      Jun 5 2013: I agree that we should eat lower on the food chain, but I think we should go even lower than insects. In 2019 the U.N. reported that in order to decrease world hunger and the effects of climate change the world needs to move toward a diet without animal products. Adding another source of animal products that require more plant crops and water than would just directly eating the plants is unsustainable and would not solve the hunger crisis. According to many studies, the world produces enough food to feed 10 billion people, but it's the lack of access and rampant poverty and inequality that hinders people from getting necessary nutrition. Also, most of these grain crops are used for fuel and to feed livestock, so using different energy sources and eating fewer animals products is a good start to encourage global food security. I don't think just adding another animal protein source will solve this, and even if crickets are very cheap, large food corporations can take advantage of this source and use their power to control it (like Monsanto).

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    Jun 4 2013: I just watched this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekyloW1cpik It gives a nice peak into bug baking! The speaker, "Wheatgrass Allen," claims that insects are a higher-quality protein than beef. And even though insects are incredibly small in size relative to a cow, pig, or chicken (you would have to eat a whole lot of them to equal the 7g of protein per ounce of beef steak), they are still more efficient than raising cattle. According to National Geographic, one hundred pounds of feed produces 10 pounds of beef. The same amount of feed would produce more than four times that amount in crickets.

    So, I guess the question comes down to: Are we willing to eat A LOT of insects, in a single sitting, to get a sufficient amount of protein? Seems like we would have to condense and sell them through somewhat of a "insect burger" to compete with a serving size of beef.
  • Jun 4 2013: We already cant feed the population as it is. 1 billion people are chronically hungry and by 2050 the populations is expected to gain another 2 billion, almost certainly adding to the list of those hungry. According to a report “Edible Insects” put out by the U.N., expanding land to use for farming is scarce, the oceans are over fished and climate change will affect many aspects of food production. These facts, along with the expanding population lead the U.N. to the conclusion that “we need to find new ways of growing food.” Which I agree with. In the U.N.’s very long and detailed report about eating insects they outline ways to process food (insects) for feed and consumption, farming insects, the nutritional value of insects, food safety and preservation, the economics of farming and eating insets, among other aspects of the issue. This seems to be very thought out and undoubtedly more should be done to look into it, as well as other ideas. As far as fixing the problem that is at hand and that will only become more blaring as time comes, I do not think it is a fix but more a step in the right direction.

    Link to the U.N. report is below. Sites good research articles.

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      Jun 4 2013: Insect farming doesn't seem like it would be an effective solution to the food crisis that we are going to be facing but i think it's an underestimated strategy. There have been some statistics arising about the economic value of bug farming, in southern Africa 10 billion caterpillars are harvested a year worth an estimated $85 million dollars. New strategies for harvesting bugs could be implemented to bring these businesses into America if the demand becomes present. Even experts admit that it might be hard to get westerners used to the idea of eating bugs, but the possibility of processing bugs could be a method to get us to eat them. If we do not recognize the food as bugs, we might be more okay with with the idea, such as with processed meat in hot dogs, or protein enriched supplements or grains.

      • Jun 4 2013: I agree that it probably won't be a solution. However thats very interesting they could be so profitable, I had no idea. Completely agree that westerners will have a hard time getting used to the idea of eating bugs. I think if the demand does become present Americans will definitely become interested, especially if there is a lot of money to be made. At least in the production of insects. Possibly through that the stigma surrounding them would lessen.
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    Jun 4 2013: I think the largest problem with this is the cultural aspect. I’m pretty sure the last thing many people would want to eat are insects, especially in an American stapled diet. That being said, urban bug farming could be a valid food source given its nutritional capacity. Maybe if the insects did not come in the shape of an insect, individuals would be more open to the idea of a meat substitute.

    However, these methods are really avoiding the inevitable of over-population. Maybe instead of trying to feed a growing world, we should start looking into controlling growth before earth’s carrying capacity is reached. This way, technological expanse could keep hungry mouths fed while improving overall quality of life.

    As nice as this is, urban bug farming is just a band-aid to over arching problem of over-population. Unless this is addressed, food supply, our yet-to-be energy crisis, and environment are all at risk.
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      Jun 4 2013: I completely agree with you, this is a valid and interesting idea to feed a hungry world. But is this necessary for America or other westernized countries? I am not convinced it is or that it would even work. Insects have great indirect benefits for human with their ability to remove wastes, pests, to pollinate crops and much more. In the TED talk attached to this conversation, the speaker states we are already eating insects in almost every processed foods. That statement concerned me, not because insects are bad, but because if they are already there why are we going to promote their expansion. It's like you said, it will be very difficult to control the population of insect farming as we go. It could lend up in the same tragic manner that our traditional protein sources have degraded to (commercialize farming.)
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        Jun 4 2013: I think he makes the statement that bugs are already there because it proves a point that they're in our diet already and it's not causing any alarm, that's why the FDA allows such large amount of bugs in the food we already eat. I don't think we'll have to deal with some of those same problems with commercial farming due to how easy it is to grow bugs. They can be grown in such small area that land will not become an issue in the foreseeable future.
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          Jun 4 2013: very true I guess I just have a problem with processed foods in general so the insects aren't really the issue in that sense.
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          Jun 4 2013: But because insects are smaller and it would require lots of individuals for us to eat in order to meet our caloric/protein demands, don't you think (if this market took off) there would eventually be a lot of area used to "grow" insects? Creating yet another commercialized farming industry (such as poultry, beef, etc.) that could create the exploitation of land/insects for our selfish needs?
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          Jun 4 2013: John,
          There may be much concern over using insects as a new type of commercialized farming, but consider the impacts of using insects over something like beef. Beef does have about 7% more protein than giant water bugs or small grasshoppers, but something like a dried caterpillar has 1% more protein than beef. Also, insects provide much higher levels of nutrients such as about 30% of the fat and four times the iron as in beef.

          Concerning the spacing and overhead issues of growing insects we need only to look at the amount of water it takes to supply beef over crickets. It takes about 870 gallons of fresh, clean water to produce 1/3 lb of beef, whereas 1/4 lb or crickets only requires a moist paper towel at the bottom of their growing tank each week. This is because insects are much more efficient than cattle at using the water found in the feed. Also, insects are ectotherms. On average an ectotherm requires only 10% of that for an endotherm like a mammal of the same size. This means less feed and less water.

          Another important thing is to consider the effects of using ground insects as a grain flour replacement or filler. In Australia this is actually becoming more polpular not only as a novelty thing but as a common part of many people's diets.

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        Jun 4 2013: Ashley- I can understand why processed foods might sound gross, but its a plausible way to introduce them into our diet.

        John-I can see the worry of commercializing the bugs in ways similar to what has been done to beef poultry, etc., but while i agree it is an exploitation of the bugs and the land they are grown in, it may not be as detrimental to the growth of these bugs. They don't need to genetically modify most insects since they convert feed so well and can be grown in spaces similar to how the zebrafish were at the research center. These advantages should help with bug production and keep it from requiring too many modifications.
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          Jun 4 2013: I think we may want to relate this to how we colonized bees. And how the Honey Bee has been overbred because of its "byproduct" in which we have exploited and modified. Insects and Bees are vital to our ecosystem and I could see a scenario similar to the "vanishing of the bees" happen with other organisms that are crucial to our biodiversity. This of course would come with the capitalization on something like "insect meat" Not that I disagree with eating insects. But the commercialization, like anything......could spiral out of control. MUTANT BUGS! J/k
          Interesting idea though.
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          Jun 4 2013: Colin,
          With the breeding of animals we often have to either introduce a number of individuals from a wild population or from other captive population to keep genetic diversity among colonies higher. A higher level of genetic diversity leads to a greater chance of survival for that colony when a disease or virus hits it. Bee colonies are much different than a population of something like crickets. Crickets do not often live in groups and those groups aren't as organized as bee colonies. Also, all crickets can mate whereas only the males and the queen can mate in a bee colony leaving cricket populations to be much more diverse genetically.
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      Jun 4 2013: Alexander, I learned quite a bit about the food scarcity issues that many in our world are facing today in my international relations class this term. Yes, the population is growing, but it cannot be an excuse that the developed world uses to defend their horrific consumptive practices. An individual in the developed world consumes almost 30 times that of an individual in the developing world. We need to recognize the difference between absolute scarcity, insufficient resources no matter how equitably distributed, and socially-generated scarcity, insufficient resources for some and not others. In my opinion the scarcity issues we are facing today are almost completely socially-generated. This is why I think it is dangerous to rely on technology when our current agricultural practices, many that stemmed from the development of new technologies, will solve these issues. Not exactly related to eating bugs but an important point to keep in mind when discussing agriculture.
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      Jun 4 2013: I think you're right that insects would be more successful as a food source if they didn't look like insects. One way I can imagine doing this is through the production of bugs into "protein powder." Millions of Americans already use protein supplements as a way to get needed nutrients or even "bulk-up." I feel like if some sort of powdered supplement made of insects was marketed in the right way it could definitely be successful! Cricket protein bars already exist, like others mentioned, and I think with the right marketing bug supplements could become popular.
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        Jun 5 2013: i have to say, my big thing regarding using insects as a food source is as you said it, they look like insects. I think creating a sort of protein powder is an excellent idea in order to incorporate them into our diet. I realize that bugs are extremely nutritious, and that their benefits to the world are enormous, but they are still in my head bugs. Im sure im not the only one thinking this. I wonder if there are other ways that we can be eating the "bugs" without eating them? if maybe there could be like a dressing, or a seasoning, and again the protein powder. What do people thing? What other ideas are there out there that could be used for the bugs so they dont look like they are eating bugs?
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    Jun 5 2013: This could be a good idea, one definitely that should be considered for future generations, not me. Like many have said, if you grow up eating bugs, then the idea doesn't sound so repulsive. Besides, who doesn't eat bugs when they're a kid? One thing we must consider is if there are any consequences of bugs. Some bugs may be associated with a number of parasites which could transfer disease. We would definitely have to perform an extensive amount of research on the subject before such a proposal could take action. However, despite it being a good idea and what not, I highly doubt that people, especially Americans, will start eating bugs.
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      Jun 5 2013: Ya I definitely agree with you on the risks from eating bugs, they could be carrying parasites or toxins (as I mentioned below) or even potentially just heavy metals (1).

      I want to delve into the specifics of how bioamplification works and its threat to upper-tier consumers.

      For instance, lets say to survive for a day, a frog eats 10 bugs, a fish eats 10 frogs, and a eagle eats 10 fish. If the bugs have 0.1 g of a persistent toxin on any given day, then a frog has 1 g of this toxin within it. A fish would therefore have 10 g and an eagle would have a whooping 100 g of the toxin inside of it. This is potentially really dangerous.

      There are a few strategies we could use to avoid such problems those. Perhaps creating sterile factories that are solely focused on growing bugs up. In contrast to wild bugs, factory raised bugs might not be as nutritionally effective and may lack a wide diversity of nutrients.

      Ultimately, it may be best to create nature reserves for the raising of these comestible bugs. In these areas you could ban most human activity, especially farming and the nearby spraying of insecticides and pesticides. This would take out "two birds with one stone" by providing a food source as well as a natural reservation for wild animals.

      1. Croteau, M., S. N. Luoma, and A. R Stewart. 2005. Trophic transfer of metals along freshwater food webs: Evidence of cadmium biomagnification in nature. Limnol. Oceanogr. 50 (5): 1511-1519
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        Jun 5 2013: I think biomagnification would really be an issue with farm raised bugs. We control what they eat and what nutrients they have available. If we give the insects food that isn't contaminated, then we don't have to worry.
        I do agree that we may have to worry about diseases and parasites, just as we do with all of our food, but I doubt it becoming an issue if safe food handling and preparation practices are developed for the consumption of insects.
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    Jun 5 2013: I think this idea is interesting. If we just consider about the nutrition if people eat insect, it is a very fantastic and useful idea to provide a valid food source strategy. But I have a question here, can everyone accept eat insect? Personally, even though I know there are a lot of benefit to eat some insects which contain various nutrition and amino acid, I don't want to eat them unless there are no other food can eat. I think in order to absorb the nutrition from the insect, we can analysis the specific content of them and use some other technology to mimic the content in a real food way such as " food drink". We can also feed chicken, pig or cattle by insect, and then we may absorb all nutrition from meat and insect when we eat meat. But there also have some problems.First, chicken or pig can digest the insect, and the nutrition may transfer into other kind of materials in their bodies. When people eat meat, we may not absrob the nutrition which we want to get. Secondly, if we foster more chicken and pig, the biodiversity may be destoried, because people change the natural food of animals, and they may have some unpredictable mutation in future. We need do more research about this topic.
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    Jun 5 2013: I think this is a great idea. First, I just wanna back up what everyone else has been saying here. There are definitely tons of bugs in the food we eat. I used to work at a basil farm that made pesto for high-end restaurants in Portland. Although, we did our best to get birds, snakes, and TONs of bugs out during the basil washing process, a handful of bugs probably escaped detection in every batch.

    However, there is on major risk with this idea. In order to meet our nutritional requirements, we would have to eat a lot of bugs. This might bring into the question the danger of potential biomagnification (also known as bioamplification).

    Biomagnification is a reasonably well understood phenomena where toxins and other persistent chemicals are able to grow to extreme concentrations as you go to higher trophic levels in the food chain. Essentially, at each level in the food web the level of toxins can increase. This has a been a huge problem in the past. One notable example is the accumulation of DDT (a previously common pesticide) in birds. DDT earned its discoverer a Nobel prize but it wasn't until later that DDT's detrimental environmental effects were uncovered. DDT, creates a metabolite DDE, in vivo, which may cause eggshell thinning in bald eagles and peregrine falcons. This is thought to have caused significant damage to many birds of prey populations (1 & 2).

    We need to be very careful if we want to successfully use bugs a staple source of sustenance. To avoid the biomagnification effect, it is essential to tone down pesticide/insecticide use in areas where the bugs will be collected. Otherwise we may incur horrendous risks later on down the road.

    1. Toxicological Profile: for DDT, DDE, and DDE. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, September 2002.
    2. Stokstad E (June 2007). "Species conservation. Can the bald eagle still soar after it is delisted?". Science 316 (5832): 1689–90. doi:10.1126/science.316.5832.1689
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      Jun 5 2013: Biomagnification would be important to consider if we did start to eat insects on a large scale. This could be similar to the problem of biomagnification of mercury in fish which eat many smaller fish or krill and eventually bioaccumulate high levels of the toxin. While we would have to find ways of avoiding this phenomena the root of these issues is pollution. If we can find ways to reduce pollution and pesticide use, many forms of food will be safer for us to eat.
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      Jun 5 2013: Ben,
      I'm not sure how applicable biomagnification is to farmed bugs. Is there any information about biomagnification being an issue in raising cattle or other livestock? If there is, then I would agree.
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        Jun 5 2013: If there are pesticides involved (being used) then it would definitely be a big deal for farming bugs. It has to do with who eats the bugs.

        It is likely not a problem with cattle because they eat primary producers (grass) so there is only one trophic level jump. However, if cattle start eating bugs then this could become a problem!