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Health and Sanity

Melissa Hutsell
Freelance Writer and Editor
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piqer: Melissa Hutsell
Monday, 25 February 2019

Gateway Bugs: Are Insects Really A Sustainable Food Source?

Eating bugs is a new take on eating green. This 20 minute episode of The Future of Everything – a podcast by the Wall Street Journal – explores everything from the culture of eating insects, to the sustainability of the newly forming [insects for food] industry.

Cricket-filled rice crispy treats, barbecue flavored worms…  insects have really always been on menus around the world. Though the concept is becoming "a trendy way to eat green" in places like the U.S., people have eaten bugs for centuries, explains host Jennifer Strong. But, is it really as sustainable as it’s made out to be?

From fried locust in Thailand, to water bugs in China, and ant larvae in Mexico (aka Mexican caviar)—insects are part of the diet of two billion people worldwide, Strong explains. 

WSJ editor Daniela Hernandez visits a market in downtown Mexico City. There are fruits, vegetables, and a plethora of edible bugs to choose from: beetles, larvae, centipedes, cockroaches, scorpions (fried, topped with lemon, or covered in chocolate). 

Bugs are a hearty source of proteins, vitamins and fatty acids, according to the United Nations, and a recent report from the UN has sparked more interest in the importance of eating bugs.

Protein is expensive, and insects are a great source of sustainable protein, explains Annie Gasparro, WSJ food reporter. However, there are conflicting studies as to whether this is more sustainable than, say, chicken.

In order to answer that question, Gasparro explains, we need to know what resources go into producing insects for food. While it may use less water, and emit less greenhouse gases, there are still lots of things to figure out – like insects' food sources, or how much it would take to provide the same amount of protein per serving as meat.

Price points are also important; right now a tortilla chip made with crickets costs twice that of a regular one, says Gasparro. With little measurable protein, will eating insects be worth the price point?  

Gateway Bugs: Are Insects Really A Sustainable Food Source?
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