Welcome to GoEnto.org! This site is an information hub for all things relating to entomophagy, the consumption of insects (and arachnids) as food. Bugs can be a highly efficient and sustainable source of food in the face of looming shortages, and in fact are already enjoyed by billions of people all over the world. Bugs are much richer in nutrients compared to more traditional livestock, breed faster, require less care, and have a far smaller impact on the environment. This page was created to introduce people to the concept of entomophagy and its staggering benefits, and guide them to additional resources where they could learn more.
Insects are an incredibly important facet of our planet's biodiversity. They vastly outweigh vertebrate life, with ants alone comprising roughly a third of the Earth's terrestrial biomass, and have been crawling around since at least the Devonian period, some 400 million years ago. Insects are primarily responsible for the pollination of flowers, the feeding of countless species, and the decomposition of corpses and other bio-waste. They can be pests, such as the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) that is currently ravaging ash trees, or the locust, a form of grasshopper that threatens crop productions. They can be even more serious as vectors for deadly diseases, such as the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads dengue fever throughout several countries.
There are other concerns that are less directly related to insects. Global warming is a real and imminent threat to our planet, a process furthered by greenhouse gases, such as the methane produced by cattle. Land mass covers only about 30% of the Earth's surface, and roughly 40% of that land mass is used in agriculture. That's a lot of crops and farting cows, and if current trends continue, more will be needed to feed the ever-growing population of billions of people. Even more urgent than food is the need for clean water. The Food and Agricultural Organization predicts that 64% of the world's population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2025.
With one in six people (about 1.1 billion) already in water-stressed conditions, and many other ecological disasters looming on the horizon such as famine and disease, there's a pressing and immediate need for more efficient and sustainable ways to nourish the world's populations.
Many, many animals eat bugs, of course (and even some plants). Our ancestors ate insects on a regular basis, and outside of the Western world, the consumption of insects for food is still very popular. Crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms, scarab larvae, caterpillars, and tarantulas are commonly eaten. Beyond cultural habits and eclectic tastes, there are several great reasons to consider bugs as a regular part of one's diet.
Ecologically, you'd be hard pressed to find a more sustainable food source than insects. For example, if you give ten pounds of food to a cow, you get one pound of beef, making the cow about 40% edible. Compare that to the eight pounds of crickets you can get from the same amount of food; That's a return of 80%! It doesn't have to be the same food, either, as most edible bugs are omnivorous, turning all sorts of bio-waste into six-legged snacks. Now compare how much water each of these organisms consumes individually: Beef requires 15.8 gallons of water per gram of protein; pork, 5.8; chicken, 5.2; and soy, 1.6. Crickets require only 0.8, and 100 gallons of water can yield around 71 grams of protein per cricket. Plus, a recent UN Food and Agricultural Organization report found that insects produce less greenhouse gasses than cattle by a factor of about 100! Add to that the fact that insects need very little room to be farmed and have a fast reproductive turn-around time, and they start to look very appealing.
Of course, there are also more personal reasons to eat bugs. The protein they contain has all of the essential amino acids, and are high in iron, calcium, and B-vitamins. Besides protein, they also have varying levels of unsaturated fats and carbohydrates, making them an excellent source of energy. They don't have to be eaten "on the hoof", either; Insects can be ground up into powders to be added to food. There are a variety of foods such as these that you can buy, such as energy bars, protein powder, and baking mixes. If you don't mind the idea of looking your food in the eye, you can prepare bugs in a variety of ways, such as fried, baked or boiled. Many species have their own unique flavor; Cicadas, for example, reportedly taste like popcorn!
My name is Owen McNamara and (so far) I'm the sole individual behind GoEnto.org. My interest in entomophagy stems from my obsession with bugs. I love going out into the wilderness and taking photos of the critters that I find, and learning all I can about them. I used to be grossed out by the idea of eating the bugs, until I read up on entomophagy and the value it could provide. Once I tried a couple of dishes with bugs in them, I was sold!
Now I want to share my passion with the world. I created this page as an information hub that would be easily accessible to visitors, provide a quick introduction to the concept of entomophagy, and guide them to additional resources where they could learn more. I believe that information and exposure are two of the best tools at our disposal to promote the eating of invertebrates as a healthy and sustainable part of the average diet across the world. My goal is to help change public perception; to make the idea of entomophagy compelling enough that people would be willing to give it a shot. As my mother would tell me when I was little, "You won't know you like it unless you try it!"
How can you eat bugs? They're so gross!
Several reasons, I suppose. I used to think the idea was gross, too, but learning more about entomophagy and bugs in general got me into the idea. There are some great recipes out there for various insect dishes, where you may not be able to taste the bug, or if they're ground into flour, not even see them.
Aren't they bad for you?
While there are some bugs that are not good to eat or are even toxic, there are at least 1,400 different species of insects and other land-based invertebrates that are perfectly edible.
What medical concerns are there?
If you have a shellfish allergy, you will probably want to avoid eating bugs. The chitin found in the exoskeletons of crustaceans is also present in insects. If you have an intestinal disorder, such as Crohn's disease, you may want to be cautious, as chitin is an insoluble fiber. As always, consult a licensed medical doctor if you have questions about your health, rather than some guy on the Internet!
What moral or ethical concerns are there?
This is really a matter of personal opinion, but I'll tell you my thoughts. Personally, I find most bugs to be very cute, so I do feel a little bad eating them. However, generally speaking, there are plenty more where those few came from! (Especially if they're farmed.) While research tentatively points to an inability for insects to feel pain, there are humane ways to kill them. Putting bugs in the freezer for a while will slow their nervous system down, and if the cold doesn't kill them, you can cook them while they're unconscious. That's arguably better than how cows or lobsters are prepared. Overall, I feel the ecological and nutritional benefits are very much worth it.
Can I eat bugs I found in the yard?
I would not recommend eating wild-caught bugs. Since you don't know their history, you won't know if they've been eating toxic plants or have been sprayed with pesticides. It's best to buy pre-processed insects or start a farm, so you can monitor them. It's always a good idea to know where your food comes from!
What do bugs taste like?
It depends! Many bugs have a nutty sort of flavor. For instance, I've found that white-lined sphinx moth caterpillars taste like almonds, while waxworms were a bit sweeter. Of course, you can always add flavor to the bugs through different recipes, cooking methods, and adding spices.
Where can I get edible bugs?
Check the Resources section for links to bug retailers!
Click an image in the slideshow below to be taken to a recipe.
Recipes and images used with permission. If this is in error, please let me know.
Books and Articles
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