Insects: The Original White Meat

By Raloff, Janet | Science News, June 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

Insects: The Original White Meat


Raloff, Janet, Science News


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

You bite into a piece of candy and find a cricket leg. Eewwww. Or notice that raisin in a bowl of cereal has legs and wings. Bam, down the disposal it goes. Such filth in foods is supposedly illegal, but the Food and Drug Administration's actual tolerance is far from zero. FDA rules allow up to 60 insect fragments on average in a composite of six 100-gram chocolate samples. For peanut butter, it's OK to have up to 30 insect pieces per 100 grams. Grossed out yet?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In the industrialized world, most people find the idea of eating insects repugnant. Processed foods containing bug bits tend to reflect poor sanitation. Because bugs can host disease-causing germs, insects tainting the food supply pose a health risk.

Yet in many parts of the world, diners actually desire insects. Youngsters in central Africa may down ants or grubs while at play. Urbane snack-seeking consumers throng street vendors throughout Southeast Asia to buy fried crickets. Even car-driving Aborigines in Australia's outback may motor a couple of hours to find, and then picnic on, a cache of honey ants.

Residents of at least 113 nations eat bugs, says Julieta Ramos-Elorduy of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. This practice, known as entomophagy (en-toh-MOFF-uh-jee), makes sense, she says, because insects tend to be quite nutritious. Indeed, many scientists around the world have put insect eating on their research menus. It was also the focus of a February United Nations conference in Thailand, where researchers discussed insect-eating trends and evaluated the nutritional value of bugs and the environmental aspects of entomophagy.

"We're not going to convince Europeans and Americans to go out in big numbers and start eating insects," concedes conference organizer Patrick B. Durst. However, fostering respect for entomophagy could do a lot to maintain health and environmental quality outside the industrial West, argues Durst, a senior forestry officer with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's regional office in Bangkok.

He holds out hope that Westerners may become more accepting of insect protein--especially if they "don't have to look the bug in the eye as they're eating it." Dutch researchers are working on just such a development--biotechnology to produce insect cells, minus the insects, as an inexpensive source of edible protein.

Almost 125 years ago, Vincent Holt published a 99-page tract in Britain titled Why Not Eat Insects? It failed to catalyze a bug-eating revolution. David Gracer, a community college writing teacher by day, has now taken up Holt's cause outside the classroom. Not only does Gracer travel the lecture circuit, he also holds cooking demonstrations so that Americans can sample insect-based snacks and bug-laced entrees. His company, Sunrise Land Shrimp, in Providence, R.I., supplies frozen and dried insects to chefs and other individuals.

Grilled cicadas are more likely to elicit a "yikes" than a "yum" from most Europeans and North Americans. "But why?" asks Gracer. "Most of these people are happy to eat crab, lobster and shrimp--the ocean equivalent of insects."

Shrimp, other crustaceans and insects are all arthropods--members of the largest phylum in the animal kingdom. When people appear squeamish about tasting a grasshopper or beetle larva, Gracer points out that despite lobster's prized status, crustaceans tend to "eat trash and dead things" whereas most insects dine at nature's salad bars.

A matter of taste

Edible insects fill a rather small niche market in the United States, Gracer concedes. Throughout most of the developing world, by contrast, dining on bugs is not only a time-honored tradition but often a treat.

That's something biologist Gene R. DeFoliart has explored for 33 years, first as chair of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's entomology department, and more recently as host of the food-insects.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Insects: The Original White Meat
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.