The UN Recommends People Consume More Bugs To Combat Obesity -- And What's The Weirdest Thing You've Ever Eaten?

I'm pretty sure I would eat bugs all the time if I was convinced they were delicious.

May 16, 2013 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

A UN report published earlier this week takes a new tack in the battle against rampaging fattery worldwide, suggesting that people should eat more insects to fight obesity. Because, I guess, "many insects contained the same amount of protein and minerals as meat and more healthy fats doctors recommend in balanced diets."

Seems like as good a reason as any. So why aren't people eating more bugs as part of a healthy diet?

"In the West we have a cultural bias, and think that because insects come from developing countries, they cannot be good," said scientist Arnold van Huis from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, one of the authors of the report.

Sure, that could totally be a reason -- Western cultures are definitely guilty of looking down their noses at nations continually struggling in poverty (often as a result of Western intervention, but that's another post).

Or maybe it's because THEY'RE BUGS AND BUGS GROSS US OUT. Honestly, I don't want to dismiss the real problem of so-called "first world" class bias, but in this case I think it's less that people are thinking, "Ew, BUGS ARE FOR POOR PEOPLE," and more that they're thinking, "Ew, GOD, I AM NOT PUTTING THAT IN MY MOUTH IT'S A BUG."

Or maybe I'm being too cavalier. Perhaps you can't separate the two.

Still, I find it interesting that the media coverage of this UN report focuses on the idea that eating bugs is itself a potential obesity "cure," when really the point is that bugs may be a healthier source of protein than meat. Also that bug-farming takes up WAY less space, causes far less planet-destroying pollution, and also creates business opportunities for some of the poorest countries in the world, and particularly for women, who are generally in charge of bug-collecting in many bug-consuming cultures.

image

A bug-laden food stall in a market in Thailand. From the photographer: "Counter-clockwise, from the back-left to the front - locusts, bamboo-worms, moth chrysalis, crickets, scorpions, diving beetles and giant water beetles. They are deep fried." (Image via Takoradee)

The takeaway here is really that meat consumption and production can cause problems for lots of reasons -- not that eating bugs is going to make you skinny. But I suppose as a culture we're all less interested in sustainable food production than we are in further hyping obesity hysteria.

Regardless, I'm open to trying new things, and would probably happily eat more insects if they were readily available. Because I think this fear and disgust toward bugs-as-food really is something we can easily overcome with exposure. I mean, lots of us eat lobster and crab, and those are basically giant sea bugs. Although the first time I heard a friend categorize them as such, I couldn't eat shellfish for a couple months, because all I saw when I looked at a lobster was BUG. So maybe the UN scientist guy isn't totally off base:

Van Huis said barriers to enjoying dishes such as bee larvae yoghurt were psychological - in a blind test carried out by his team, nine out of 10 people preferred meatballs made from roughly half meat and half mealworms to those made from meat.

Ironically, mealworms are more expensive than meat, as anyone who's researched the urban legend that Taco Bell and other fast food meat is mostly ground-up worms will already know. But if supply is increased then maybe the price would hypothetically come down a bit, enough to make their wider use feasible for everyday people.

SO, have you ever eaten bugs (on purpose)? What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?

For me, it's not bug-related: it was probably this absolutely delicious soup I ate -- nay, DEVOURED -- in Jamaica, and then when I got to the bottom of the cup I found a puffed-up and totally whole chicken foot. Which, uh, terrified me, I'm ashamed to admit, because I didn't know if the inclusion of the foot wasn't a horrible mistake. In retrospect, it wasn't so much weird as unexpected. (Even more embarrassing, the soup is ACTUALLY CALLED "Chicken Foot Soup" so if I had been LISTENING instead of just pushing food in my face I might have saved myself the shock. It really was delicious though, so I would have eaten it either way.)

YOUR TURN. 

Posted in Fun, open thread, diet, obesity, food