Would you eat bugs to survive? Some folks in the edible bug industry believe the practice will become more common.
“Sushi took 30, 40 years to really become a normal thing, but kale took like five years and kale’s not even very tasty,” says Robert Nathan Allen, head of Austin, Texas-based Little Herds, a nonprofit founded to educate the public on the nutritional and environmental benefits of edible insects.
What does Allen and his colleagues see driving the trend toward edible bugs? The need for more food sources and consumers wanting more humane treatment of animals. What keeps developed countries from eating bugs? The “yuck factor.”
A 2013 United Nations report says that around 2 billion people worldwide eat close to 2,000 insect species. According to the report, a growing population means that food production will need to double by 2050. And that means the option of edible bugs.
Those in the industry say that bugs have higher protein than other meat alternatives.
Industry officials say eating bugs is already attracting niche markets, such as the gluten-free market or helping the environment by limited farming needed for insects.
Farming would be necessary, because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says to be safe for human consumption, insects need to be farmed to prevent contamination in the wild.
Also, bugs and products with bugs would have to be clearly labeled for allergy reasons. Many bugs share genetic similarities to shellfish.
The industry is very new, with few bug farms in operations and products being offered.