Insects and Kelp Are Meat and Veggies of the Future?
Insects and kelp are the steak and salad of the future, argues Slate magazine's latest installment on the future of food. While many Western cultures find it strange to eat the lobsters of the land and the lettuces of the sea, several international groups are considering how to change people's attitudes, Slate reported. Bug- and seaweed-eating will help Earth feed more people in the future while protecting the environment, many experts think.
Taking on the bugs first, generations of thinkers have tried to convince Western folks to eat insects. A recent New Yorker article on bug-eating referenced an 1885 essay called "Why Not Eat Insects?" The Slate article helpfully lays out the environmental benefits roasted crickets and stir-fried silkworms.
Insects are super-efficient meat sources. While it takes 10 grams of feed to produce three grams of pork – or just one gram of beef – insects can turn the same 10 grams of plant matter into nine grams of meat. Insects produce one-tenth of the methane that livestock do. They could eat paper and industrial wastes, recycling what would otherwise become trash. Their meat is high in protein, calcium and iron while being low in fat and cholesterol.
Cultures all around the world cook insects in traditional dishes. One of us at InnovationNewsDaily recalls meeting silk factory workers in China who lunched on silkworms. Yet the American diet has never embraced insects because a culture's food choices are based on the food's return rate, or how many calories are in the food divided by the effort it takes to catch it, according to Discovery News. The return rate for insects in the U.S. was historically low. "In some places in the world, there are insects that are large and not all that hard to get," a University of Missouri anthropologist, Rob Walker, told Discovery News. "In those places, you find these nice insects that are good to eat and people, sure enough, will eat them."
Several cultural forces are working to change American and other Westerners' creepy feelings towards bugs. The New Yorker listed fashionable restaurants in the U.S. serving grasshopper tacos and cocktails with grasshopper salt. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization gathered experts to discuss insect-eating in January, while the European Union is offering 3 million euros ($3.7 million) for research that promotes insect protein, Slate reported.
Meanwhile, Slate found two companies based in Maine who are selling "kelp noodles, kelp energy bars, kelp pickles, seaweed-flavored tortilla chips." Kelp grows swiftly without using fresh water, arable land or fertilizer, Slate reported. Seaweed farms could absorb carbon dioxide from the warming atmosphere.
To feed a growing planet, people will have to adopt several innovative strategies at the same time, Slate argued. Eating insects and kelp are just two of the potentially "yucky-seeming," but actually pretty okay, changes that people will need to make.
Bonus: Ready to get 'em while they're young? The University of Kentucky offers fun-sounding lesson plans on insect-eating, including instructions for dry-roasting crickets and mealworms.