By: Paige Hubbard
In an era in which concern over the world’s climate only continues to grow deeper, experts are regularly encouraging extreme and perhaps even creative action. One such strategy that’s growing more popular, yet is still unthinkable for many is the consumption of insects.
This year’s Earth Day is being marked Monday (April 22), and advocates of edible insects are singing the environmental benefits of sprinkling your dishes with crickets, grasshoppers, and ants. Gourmands concur and say the insects are a treat.
Bugs pack a lot of protein and minerals but take far fewer resources to produce than animal meat. Indeed, the market for edible insects is growing in North America, even as it’s long established in many cultures throughout the world.
Among those leading the critter call in the United States is Joseph Yoon, a self-proclaimed “bug advocate” based in New York. Yoon is the executive director of Brooklyn Bugs, which hosts an annual edible insect festival. He is a regular on the lecture circuit in his advocacy for including insects in food.
“It takes a fraction of the resources to grow a pound of crickets as it does a pound of beef,” he said in a recent interview.
He regularly points to a 2013 report by the United Nations Food And Agriculture Organization that says that critters “provide food at a low environmental cost, contribute positively to livelihoods, and play a fundamental role in nature” despite their creepy fame.
According to the FAO, entomophagy, as the act of eating insects is known scientifically, should become more common for three main reasons: insects are rich in protein, healthy fats and vitamins; insects emit much fewer greenhouses gases than livestock; insects don’t require the same land use for production.
Yoon does not underestimate the public relations challenge for insect cuisine.
“The creative mission for me is how do I take something that people don’t perceive as food and make it crave-worthy, make it something so that people go like, ‘Man, I never thought I would want to eat insects but looking at his food, I really want to try it,'” he said.
And so he supplements trendy, delectable cuisine with insects, whether it’s shrimp and jalapenos or chips and guacamole.
Edible insects are in fact a mainstay of many cultures and countries like Mexico going back centuries.
Mexican chef, Gerardo Alcaraz, has brought the fare to New York with his downtown-Manhattan restaurant, The Black Ant. Its menu includes items like, “Croquetas de Chapulin,” or “Locust Croquettes.” Baby grasshoppers are sprinkled on top.
In a recent interview, Alcaraz didn’t just emphasize attributes that delight environmentalists or nutritionists the world over.
“It has an incredible flavor,” he said.