The following is a slightly edited excerpt from my question and their answer, which was part of Climavores‘ recent episode of mailbag:
Munsell: Hi, Tamar and Mike. I want to know your point of view on the bugs. A few years ago there was a lot of activity in the area of insect proteins. But outside of science museum gift shops, I haven’t seen any edible insects for sale. Is bug protein a thing? And what do you think ? Is it a climate solution? Bugs are pretty gross, but I can see the value in eating them.
Grünwald: That’s an excellent question. There’s cricket powder in gyms, and you can get it on Amazon. When I was in Mexico, I ate grasshoppers that I bought from a street vendor. And yes, they were rather rude.
Eating bugs would be a great way to get plenty of protein quite efficiently. Insects grow quickly and do not need a lot of food to increase their body weight. But many people think they are rude. I think they are more likely to end up as animal feed, and particularly as fish feed for aquaculture.
In fact, Archer Daniels Midland is building the world’s largest insect protein plant in Decatur, Illinois, near their corn processing plant, and they’re going to feed insect remains from the corn processing process. .
At present, [insects are] a tiny fraction of the world’s protein intake. I think they say it could be a $300 million industries in the United States per 2030who is really tiny [compared to] a trillion-dollar global meat market, but as food, especially for fish, I think it’s promising.
Haspel: I think that’s absolutely correct, especially when it comes to fish, because one of the difficulties in aquaculture is trying to grow fish without feeding them small fish. And that defeats the purpose of taking your fish production out of the ocean. So I see a real advantage there.
There are people who have done life cycle analyzes of insects, but not that many. And the last one I saw showed mealworms coming right around where the chicken was. [as a protein source], except that per kilogram of animal, and because you can eat (or the animal can eat) the mealworm whole, it’s significantly better. And it will depend on whether these mealworms are fed with waste streams or food that could be diverted to other types of animals. So I think it’s a good bet that insect protein will be a decent way to produce protein.
Now for humans, I’m going to say in the US, that’s a non-starter. Americans won’t eat bugs. And it’s completely cultural. Our reluctance is a learned reaction of disgust that people in other parts of the world don’t have. But the thing is, just because it’s a learned disgust reaction doesn’t mean you can just get over it. It is deeply rooted. I know the reason I don’t want to eat bugs has nothing to do with bugs. It has everything to do with this inculturated idea. But that doesn’t make the idea any less powerful. I still don’t want to eat bugs.
But I have high hopes for this as a diet. I think there might be other places in the world where people are a little more enlightened, and they don’t have that loathing reaction to insects. And if we really want Americans to eat bugs, the way to do that is to make sure our kids don’t learn that disgust reaction.
So, all of you who watch the weather and watch your diet, give your kids mealworms early on so they don’t have that disgust reaction.
I asked my kids if they would consider eating cricket food, and my eyes widened and my brow furrowed. I may have missed the window to avoid their disgust response.
For Grunwald and Haspel’s views on other topics like regenerative agriculture, factory-farmed fish, and whether vegans can eat oysters, listen to the full episode of the Mailbag on Apple, Spotify, or anywhere. where you get your podcasts.
Want to see a live recording of the show? Climavores will be at Canary Live in New York in October 20. Additionally, Canary’s Julian Spector and Maria Gallucci, Politico’s Marie French, and The City’s Samantha Moldando will break down what decarbonization means for New York State.