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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
(http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/34172/title/Why-Insects-Should-Be-in-Your-Diet/)

The Cricket Bigger Than Beef By Claire Lemarchand
(http://www.yankodesign.com/2012/02/27/superbugs-bugs-with-powers/)

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    Jun 4 2013: As others have stated, eating bugs as an alternate food source is a good idea. Overall, it seems as though no one is really against the idea of having a bug as an alternate food source besides the idea of eating a bug. A good point that some have pointed out is the use of pesticides. That is a true fear, but if bugs are harvested and grown correctly they can be unharmful. Asia and other Eastern cultures don't seem to have a problem with insect eating illnesses and insects are even a delicacy. I believe that by eating insects not only can we help starvation and well as the environment, but it will also help us socially in bridging the gaps between cultures. The best way to understand cultures is to eat their food that is "exotic" to the west. This can help with issues of the environment internationally because we will have a greater mutual respect for one another.

    It is a pitty that the west is so afraid to try new foods or to eat foods that seem "gross". In honesty, it's just a visual problem that many have growing up because they were not exposed to such foods. I personally have eaten all kinds of bugs ranging from ants, caterpillars, crickets, ect. All prepared cooked or alive. They have no taste and are just super crunchy like nuts.
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      Jun 4 2013: I agree - there are relatively fewer "cons" that I can think of when it comes to utilizing insects as a food source (as opposed to say, red meat). Like others have brought up, they're a great source of protein and require fewer resources (land, water, etc.) to farm. However, I just can't see insects becoming a part of the average American's diet, at least within our lifetimes. Echoing the posts of others, it's just been too ingrained in our culture that bugs are yucky and not to be eaten. Personally I don't think I could do it, even through in theory it's an excellent idea and there's nothing really that gross about it if it doesn't still look like a bug. Maybe, as someone else mentioned, earlier education/encouraging experimentation with insects would help? One other idea I had concerned the amount of meat that goes to the pet food industry. One study in Australia found that 2.48 million metric tons of fish/seafood products per year were consumed by the canned cat food industry (De Silva & Turchini). Increasingly, as people look closer at the ingredients in their pets' food, they are choosing to feed pets fresh meat or dry/canned food with meat as the first ingredient. Pets now account for a pretty sizeable portion of meat production and consumption, so perhaps we should experiment with replacing meat with insect products in pet foods.

      Source: De Silva and Turchini, 2008. Towards understanding the impacts of the pet food industry on world fish and seafood supplies. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10806-008-9109-6

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