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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: One thought I've had that doesn't appear to have been covered yet is in regards to use of bugs as a food additive. I was wondering to myself how acceptable this practice might seem to people who are vegetarians. In general one of the main motivators behind a vegetarian diet is the desire to reduce the harm caused to living things, and as such I my initial thought is that this process of fortification with bug protein would not go over well. But then again pescatarians are people who largely consider themselves a type of vegetarian though they consume fish. Maybe the same thing would arise if bugs were more commonly eaten? Maybe people who don't consume most animals would be okay with eating insects as they don't feel a close connection to them.
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      Jun 5 2013: I posted this earlier as well, but here's a short article on some of the vegan/vegetarian responses to eating insects: http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/eating-insects-vegans-and-vegetarians-weigh-in

      My personal opinion falls more with the last response in the article ("Leave the bugs alone")
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      Jun 5 2013: Good point Erik. I think we should question more why we chose not to eat certain, more relatable animals but for others it’s “okay”.

      That being said, those who are vegetarian/vegan for the purpose of reducing animal suffering may be more likely to consider eating insects, as many believe that bugs can’t feel pain consciously. They might be less conscious of their living conditions as well. There are more “humane” ways of killing insects too: by freezing them. Because they are temperature conformers, their metabolisms will slow until their body shuts down entirely. This, in my opinion, is far less traumatic than they way we currently “process” larger animals. That being said, I think care should still be taken when farming bugs, because we still really don’t know how they experience negative physical stimuli.

      As Mika pointed out earlier though, if you’re concerned with the number of individuals that are being sacrificed for consumption, especially when veg diets will do, then eating insects is probably out of the question.
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      Jun 5 2013: I feel like this concern arises from its ability to eat an organism when you can see it. If we have to look at a cricket we won't want to eat it, Similar to how we dont want to cut a piece of steak off the cow, we just want the meat product. I feel like changing how we eat them can make them much more enjoyable for US consumers. If you were to dice bugs up into a dip or spread it could be very good on something like bread or crackers. Just like how we are willing to eat a meal when we don't know what is in it. Similar to how I love deviled eggs more than anything but hate mayonnaise, I recently found that it was in the eggs but I still eat them because i don't recognize what makes up the meal. If we aren't able to identify the organism than we are much more okay with the idea of eating them.
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      Jun 5 2013: My initial reaction to this is that vegetarians could possible be completely fine with this, because some vegetarians it isn't about living things, so much that is about not eating an animal that they find a likeness to themselves in it. If it has a face, then they won't eat it. Insects don't have faces and therefore they would be more likely to not mind eating insects.
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      Jun 5 2013: So I am a vegetarian and would not eat bugs. But I am a strict vegetarian and I ask what is in all my foods before I eat them. I want and need to know before I put it in my body. Some semi-vegetarian people would be just fine with eating bugs. Others who are like me would not. If you are looking to try and market this as a viable thing to add to a vegetarian diet without offending the vegetarian community in general I think it will be difficult. I view insects as animals just as I view fish, poultry, and meat. The comment that with eating bugs there is a more humane way to KILL them is not going to go over well. You are killing animals to eat them and strict vegetarians and vegans will see it as such. I would focus on marketing to the meat eating populations and comparing insects to cattle as I think for those that eat meat... eating bugs may be a good way to go.

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