2011.08.31 Grubs: the other white meat

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

“Most of the world eats bugs.”

That’s a quote from a New Yorker magazine article by Dana Goodyear about eating insects.

Worldwide, about 80 percent of Earth’s human inhabitants eat insects, with pleasure. If you want to get technical, we all eat insects. We eat insects by the thousands.

The Food and Drug Administration allows, for example, up to 50 aphids, thrips and mites for every 3.5 ounces of frozen spinach. A one-pound jar of peanut butter can contain about 130 insect parts before it’s considered contaminated. For chocolate, 137 parts for an eight-ounce bar. The list goes on and on.

That’s just the processed food. Fresh vegetables often have insects, unless they’re pesticide laden. We eat insects every day, but few of us among the bugless 20 percent eat them intentionally. What we don’t know can’t gag us.

Goodyear writes about a region of Mexico where toasted grasshoppers (with garlic, chile and lime) are a treat and shrimp is considered disgusting.

Witchetty grubs in Australia are said to taste like nut-flavored scrambled eggs. Children in Venezuela enjoy toasted tarantulas. In Mali, cultural differences keep chicken and eggs off the dinner plate, but children love eating grasshoppers. Meal worms are factory-farmed in China, and that gets to the perception problem faced by those in insect husbandry.

No one in the U.S. is going to eat something with the name “worm.” How about if it goes by the genus name, tenebrio? A tenebrio quiche just might make it in an upscale restaurant, suggests Gene DeFoliart, the former chair of entomology at the University of Wisconsin.

Goodyear points out the precedent for this move. In the 19th century, the English members of the Society for the Propagation of Horse Flesh as an Article of Food hired French chefs to prepare banquets featuring a tasty new item: chevaline.

If a name change for a wax moth fails, then do as another scientist suggested: cover them in good chocolate. People will eat anything wrapped in chocolate.

And don’t forget, 20 years ago few people around here made it past the “yuck” factor associated with sushi. Now it’s pretty common.

Insects are associated with filth, although most of them lead clean lives fueled by a healthy diet. It’s mushrooms that are dirty. It’s lobsters that are bottom-feeders, eating debris off the ocean floor. And shrimp? You don’t even want to know about your farmed shrimp from Thailand. Don’t ask. Just keep eating.

Many researchers are convinced that insects are in our future. The population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050 and the demand for meat will be high. If there’s a World War III, control of water and food might be at the root, and those who can produce protein will be on top.

Back to changing attitudes. Insects can’t be viewed as enemies of man. They’re mini-livestock. 

Insects are about four times as efficient in converting feed to meat, compared to cattle. Grasshoppers have three times as much protein—ounce for ounce—as beef, and they possess some good micronutrients.

Unlike pigs, many bugs like crowded, dirty conditions. They’re great recyclers, too. Bugs: the green food. Grubs: the other other white meat.

In America, we love chicken but we don’t want to see or think about chicken eyes and beaks and feathers. There’s a similar problem with insects.

Some researchers are thinking about insect flour. Others are working on bug nuggets and bug steak. That comparison about grasshopper and beef protein? It would take about a thousand grasshoppers to equal the protein in a 12-ounce steak. If only they were the size of pigs, said an entomologist at Purdue, he guarantees we would be eating them.

It sounds like we’ll be eating them no matter what. Here’s a sampling of what people are creating. Land shrimp cocktail, made from wax worms. Soy marinated crickets. A Bee-L-T with bee larvae. Katydid and grilled cheese sandwiches. Spider rolls. Toll house cookies with fresh roasted crickets.

You might as well flavor those cookies with honey—the vomit of a bee. 

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016