I have a recurring nightmare. I see a delicious-looking treat in Costco. Chocolate. My empty stomach growls to have it. I dash to the taste-station and eat it without hesitation. As my teeth break through the crunchy exterior, I taste a milky-smooth core, like the gooey cheese inside a hard taco. I gaze at the “food label” – and gag. I have just eaten a crispy, brown cockroach covered in milk chocolate.
Despite what feels like a life-threatening experience, people should eat bugs as a stable source of protein. In our culture, bugs are nasty. Bugs are disgusting. Bugs seem toxic to our very existence. People get physically ill just looking at them, and our natural impulse is to kill them with a newspaper. So why in the world would we eat them?
First off, 1,500 different species of insects are safe to eat. “Domestic insects” – like ants, meal worms, crickets, beetles, and roaches – are as safe to consume for humans as they are for armadillos. Insects sold commercially in grocery stores must go through a sanitation process to ensure they are safe to eat, just like any other food. So instead of worrying if eating a cricket will kill you, you should focus on making sure that your chicken is fully cooked and that your milk hasn’t expired.
Not only are they safe to eat, but insects are actually good for you. That’s right, ingesting an inch-long grasshopper supplies you with various nutrients that bolster metabolism and other bodily functions. Insects are rich in protein, so they fill you up. But how can these tiny creatures provide calories equivalent to a chicken thigh? For one thing, insects are eaten whole – their gooey organs stimulate healthy cells and their crunchy exoskeletons contain the molecule chitin, which may strengthen human tissue. In fact, insects provide so much nutritional value that artificial enhancers would not be needed to make them more “healthy.”
In a country where one-third of the population is obese from eating fast food, junk food, and processed food, we need more affordable, natural food options. Protein-wise, eating a fried grasshopper is just like eating a chicken nugget; the only difference is that with a grasshopper you know what you’re actually eating.
Insects aren’t just healthy – they’re cheap. You heard that right: this is an affordable food that is not injected with chemicals and will not make people gain excessive weight. Consumers buy what they can afford, which is why fast food is so popular. Insects could be the new standard for affordable food. You can use them to make rich dressings, infuse them in delicious soups, or even bake them for a toasty treat. The possibilities are endless!
Insects are ubiquitous on our planet. For every one person, there are about 300 million insects! Although this fact may petrify some of us, it makes insects a sustainable food source. In recent years, food corporations have genetically modified their livestock so they will grow bigger faster in order to keep up with the demands of an increasing human population. Insects are plentiful by nature, so chemical reconstitution would not be needed. Insect cultivation should be effortless for farmers, since bugs require little space. Insects reproduce at inconceivable rates – queen ants lay hundred of eggs per day – so they can keep pace with the growing human population. Cows require mountains of feed and hundreds of gallons of water before they are ready for market. On the other hand, insects eat leftovers, so they won’t drain human resources.
The effects of global warming will be lessened if Americans start eating insects. This is because insects release fewer greenhouse gases than their counterparts. This can have a huge impact on our environment. According to FAO.org, “Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.” Insects also release less waste – a lot less. Have you ever seen insect droppings? Our generation is invested in the idea of creating a greener planet, and the best way to achieve this goal is by discarding old-fashioned and harmful agricultural practices.
Insect consumption is seen as a third-world practice by Americans. Sadly, this bias is hindering our ability to see its many benefits. Why work out or go vegan when you can eat six roaches for lunch and achieve the same results? Compared to livestock, insects are better in almost every way. The health benefits, environmental benefits, and societal benefits will transform the way we look at the cricket in our bathroom. The exclamations “Gross!” “Yuck!” and “Eww!” should be swapped with the saying, “A cricket a day keeps processed food away!”
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.