The Stigma Of Eating Insects

It’s hurting people who need the nourishment:

In non-Western cultures insects are an important food source, providing proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Where eating insects is a norm, people can tell dish_insect the difference between good insects and bad insects and identify seasonal differences in arthropodal food choices (when to harvest larval states, which adults to avoid, etc.)

However, what’s becoming clear is that as Western cultural ideas have spread, the potential for this food option is shrinking. In the West African country of Mali, it was common for children to forage for grasshoppers among the crops grown by their families. Their diets consist of millet, sorghum, maize, peanuts and some fish, so grasshoppers were an important source of protein (Looy 2013). However, when their families began to grow surplus crops and make use of pesticides, parents began to actively discourage their children from eating grasshoppers, which means that they’re now short of an important protein option. Elsewhere in the ethnographic record, [researcher Heather] Looy documents hesitation by locals to discuss their entomophagic tendencies with outsiders out of fear of being judged or misunderstood.

Update from a reader:

I know you can’t promote any one business, but there is a start up in the UK called Ento that is working to ensure Western diets will include insects in the next 15-20 years, definitely in our lifetimes. By addressing the ick factor, namely eating the bugs without seeing bug parts, people are more open-minded about trying and once they taste, they may never go back. Not to mention the ecological benefits. When I was in Cambodia, people swore by the deliciousness of roasted tarantula on a stick, but I couldn’t make the leap because the body, hair and all, was still too intact. Strange in that it was no more bizarre than soft-shell crab, which I love. Hell, if I can eat shrimp, which are ghastly looking, I know it won’t be long before I can eat grasshopper or a rare cicada delicacy prepared every 17 years.

(Photo by Flickr user timitalia)