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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 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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