Push to eat bugs: The creepy, crawly alternative to eating meat

Edible Insects
Meal worms are sorted before being cooked Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in San Francisco. A growing number of “entopreneurs” are trying to persuade consumers that insects are the next super food, a nutritious, low-cost, environmentally friendly source of protein that can help feed a hungry world. But they face a tough job convincing Westerners that crickets, meal worms and caterpillars can be tasty treats. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) Ben Margot/AP

Push to eat bugs: The creepy, crawly alternative to eating meat

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As many are making New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier, would you try adding bugs to your diet?

In many cultures, eating insects is a part of their diet. In Asia, bugs are invading street food markets in Thailand and Vietnam. From cricket soup to worms you can get fried, battered, or sauteed with peppers, edible bugs are crawling into a popular nightcap snack.

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In Colombia, one region has a species of ant called Atta laevigata, and one of the local names of the ant in Spanish roughly translates to “big-butt ant.” These expensive delicacies are deep-fried to give a crispy, crunchy outside paired with (their big butts) a juicy inside.

Bill Gates and big names in Hollywood are pushing to eat bugs as a way to prevent climate change. The argument is that bugs are high in protein and could replace the high intake of beef, chicken, and pork. Critics against eating meat say raising these animals is adding to pollution. Time magazine even came out with an article pushing bugs as a sustainable, healthy alternative to meat.

But is this political motivation enough to make this trend mainstream in countries that don’t normally have such a high appetite for insects and arachnids? Of course, if you could convince an entirely new part of the population to ingest insects, there would be a market to make money. So will the Microsoft founder’s next place to score big bucks be with bugs?

There seems to be a market for these formerly slithering snacks. Amazon now sells bagged bugs from zebra tarantulas to dark chocolate crickets, and don’t forget the jungle trail mix with a delicate mix of scorpions and beetles to tickle your fancy. They also sell agave worms, listed as a gourmet Mexican snack. Don Bugito is a San Francisco company selling edible insects on Amazon that says its mission is to focus on “planet-friendly protein snacks.” The Colombian/Mexican American owner is inspired by pre-Hispanic ancestral food.

During the invasion of cicadas last summer, the Food and Drug Administration had to put out a warning to tell people to stop eating the critters if they have a shellfish allergy. Restaurants were getting creative to figure out how to turn these rare sightings into creepy, crawly culinary delights, including two restaurants in the Washington area. Chef Seng Luangrath from Thip Khao and Padaek posted a picture of a cicada scampi featured on their secret menu, while the chef over at Cocina on Market, Tobias Padovano, cooked up cicada tacos for his customers.

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While many countries do have bugs as a part of their diet, it is usually a seasonal snack when these bugs can be found in surplus. Harvesting them or farming them could, of course, lead down the same slippery slope as with farmed fish or chickens. Of course, you will have people (such as pure vegans) say that even eating bugs is inhumane.

We looked at the menu for Ocean Prime, a high-end restaurant in Washington, and saw an 8-ounce steak would cost $40, around the same price as one zebra tarantula. Which would you choose?

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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