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Why Don’t More Humans Eat Bugs? (2018) (sapiens.org)
39 points by kirion25 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments

A comment was deleted, which said,

> For the same reason we don’t eat grass. We get them preprocessed by other animals and then eat them instead because they are tastier.

The reason we don’t eat grass is because our digestive system can’t really absorb much energy from it. Eating grass requires a very specialized digestive system, and we just don’t have those specializations.

The reason grass isn’t tasty is because our taste has coevolved with our digestive system so things we can digest are tasty.

Bugs are tasty. We can get nutrients from bugs. Do you like breadcrumbs on your macaroni and cheese? Try ants instead. They give the same crunch and a similar texture, but a bit of a different flavor. I think it’s a nice contrast to the load of soft carbs and fat in macaroni and cheese.

That said, I’m still going to use breadcrumbs. I’m just not that adventurous. Bugs are treated as novelties, not food, in mainstream US culture. If they’re not part of your tradition, you end up making a big deal out of them.

I encourage you to research what percentage of bugs are actually edible and a reasonable source of protein in northern climates. And then research the eating habits in regions where the percentage of edible and protein rich insects is significantly higher. Within there, I imagine you will find an answer.

> Within there, I imagine you will find an answer.

The answer to what? The post you replied to didn't raise any questions like that.

Also, why not just say what your point is rather than being vague and cryptic. And your point about what percentage of insects are edible isn't very relevant because there are like 5k species of mammals and over 900k species of insects, and we don't need more than a handful of different species to actually eat.

Also, insect are hard to find in the winter, and much harder to raise at a reasonable quantity than cows and chickens.

And if your 1000 sheeps escape in the wild, you have a chance to get some back, and you will be able to protect you fields against them.

It's practical.

Plusyou don't have to care about venom when cookinh lamb.

> and much harder to raise at a reasonable quantity than cows and chickens.

Doubt that. Livestock eats up much more energy than its meat gives back (i.e. you would have to feed 7kg of soy protein to get 1kg of meat protein).

With insects such as Mealworms that's much easier. They basically eat anything and they turn it almost 1:1 into valuable protein. Also you can raise them pretty much everywhere, even in crammed indoor farms without it being cruel.

It's sounded more like you were imagining wild crickets being collected from grass fields or something... which is obviously not a good solution.

> With insects such as Mealworms that's much easier. They basically eat anything and they turn it almost 1:1 into valuable protein.

I looked up the feed conversion ratio for mealworms, I found values around 5:1. This is comparable to beef. Chickens are much better, somewhere around 1.5:1. Some other insects are better or worse in terms of FCR.


With modern factory farming that is true, but older subsistence style farming is different. Cows eat grass and weeds, I however can't eat those. Chickens can be fed scraps and inedible seeds and bugs, I can eat some of that but not all of it and chickens will actively look for their own food if possible requiring little work on my part. Pigs will eat literal shit and rotten food like it was a jelly doughnut.

The ratio is more like 5:1, beside, once you fried them, there is not much of it left because they are so small. But nobody wants to eat them raw.

My ex roomate was growing mealworms for his iguana and we even ate them.

Raising it was super hard, it was in a plastic box with a few lights, fed our food waste and kept in a closet.

The trick is to get people to eat them, I tried and it was tasting like chips but I wasn't too hard to convince, my girlfriend on the other end couldnt even look at them...We managed to sneak some one day and she liked it but lost any trust in the food my roomate or myself cooked.

You should check out the industrial-scale cockroach farming going on in China. Mostly hermetically sealed buildings; you can put them in cold places, you pump food waste in one side, and get sterile, protein-rich cockroach out the other side.

No comment on the taste, but you can do similar things for a variety of non-cockroach insects that may have different taste / texture / emotional connections.

If someone makes a tasty product, I'll give it a shot. Until then, I am waiting for the vat-grown beef.

One thing about some insects - I used to have fish in an aquarium that were large enough to eat crickets in one bite, and every single insect I caught in our home and put in the water also had parasitic worms that tried to escape the host insect immediately when it realized the insect was in water - these parasitic worms seem to take up most of the insects abdomen. This might not be a problem in non tropical parts of the world, but it's like a horror movie in miniature.


Farmed insects like silkworm should be safe to eat, I often stir fry them as a snack with beer. Quite tasty!

Are farmed tapeworms safe to eat?

Nematode aren't insect though :)

Jesus Christ. I've eaten crickets for the novelty, but now I won't until I'm absolutely sure they're not holding those huge parasitic worms.

you need to deep fry the insects and problem solved, then add guacamole and that's it

I was eating out with an "ideologically motivated" vegetarian friend of mine, who doesn't eat meat because it's "ethically wrong", and he ordered crabs. I challenged him (jokingly, but ready to argue my point on aesthetic grounds): "Crabs are just giant bugs, and you're a vegetarian, so why do you eat bugs?"

He replied "I eat bugs because they're the enemy!"

> vegetarian friend of mine ... he ordered crabs

Not a vegetarian.

That is literally the entire point of the whole comment that they made you pedantic ding dong.

He sounds like a fan of Starship Troopers (that or the Gemcraft games) - if you haven't seen it, it's a great movie.

Because they’re gross looking and honestly don’t taste that great (speaking from experience). It’s not rocket science.

There are many parts of the world where bugs are considered to appear and taste palatable. Some are delicacies.

The idea that all bugs are gross is largely due to unfamiliarity. Most unfamiliar foods are considered gross the first time someone tries them (as anyone with kids can attest).

With that said, some of the large ants commonly eaten in southern Mexico are extremely bitter. Not my favorite for sure.

>The idea that all bugs are gross is largely due to unfamiliarity.

I'm really, really skeptical of this idea. One of the most interesting phobias is Trypophobia, fear of irregular patterns or of small holes/bumps. It's not really a fear, ... but more of an evolutionary response. Humans are good at recognizing patterns and irregular holes/bumps tend to mean disease or "something gross and dangerous probably laid eggs here". Those things tend to be insects, or bugs, or whatever.

As an aside, eating bugs has become all the rage with some of my more culturally eccentric friends. I don't really know why, since they can definitely afford actual food and seem to engage in this as some kind of signal of cultural experience or "competency".


Ants, termites, wasps, bees, cicadas, grasshoppers and crickets, beetles, beetle larvae, moth larvae, caterpillars, ... have a very wide range of appearances, textures, flavors, habitats, diets, ....

I don’t see why Trypophobia would have anything to do with a fear of eating insects rather than, say, honey, pomegranates, sunflower seeds, or strawberries.

There are many things commonly eaten in e.g. the USA which are considered disgusting by some people in other countries. Fermented cabbage, non-dairy “cheese” product, twinkies, weird stuff made out of jello or marshmallows, deep-fried butter, wonder bread, raw kale, ...

There are also many foods eaten in other parts of the world which don’t look weird and have nothing to do with bugs but most e.g. Americans refuse to eat for no apparent reason.

And this rejection probably comes from the fact their are not safe to eat as is.

If you take any bug and you eat it without cooking it, you risk diseases or venom, and you'll get a hard crunch shell.

So batch preparing those little things requires deep fry, which is a quite recent addition to our life.

Besides, it was hard to safely gather or raise enough of them to nourish a village. So we did eat some of them anecdoticly, but that's all.

The same is true for a whole freshly slaughtered chicken, sans venom.

It's much easier to figure out that one chicken is sick that one in 100 tiny bugs with an exoskeleton.

And bugs are more resistant than chickens, and can hold many dangerous agents that are dangerous for us without being sick themself.

It's a cultural thing.

When I was very young growing up in Zambia, we used to eat those flying termites that appear everywhere after the rains, as well as a certain type of caterpillar.

And I remember them being delicious. Then we flew off to the US for about 6 years.

That was enough time for me to completely lose the taste for them on a very visceral level.

Fried spiced bugs are tasty. Raw bugs not so much. I liked fried scorpio. Raw cricket, taste like crap.

I guess if you take grass, deep fry it and put cummin on it, it tastes ok too.

You can eat a cucumber, a carrot, an apple or a steak raw. Even things you need to cook, such as wheet or potatoes, taste alrigh by just being boiled in water.

> Fried spiced bugs are tasty. Raw bugs not so much. I liked fried scorpio. Raw cricket, taste like crap.

Depends on the bug. Different bugs have different flavors. It depends on their diet, too, like many animals. There are lots of ways to prepare them. Some of them are bland, others are very flavorful. I don’t see how this is any different from other foods. As a category, bugs are flavorful and interesting, but again, it depends on the bug and its diet.

> I guess if you take grass, deep fry it and put cummin on it, it tastes ok too.

No. You’re just tasting the fry oil and the spices.

> Even things you need to cook, such as wheet or potatoes, taste alrigh by just being boiled in water.

I think bugs taste better than potatoes or wheat boiled in water.

You can eat potatoes raw too.

The human digestive system evolved in the Paleolithic to easily digest starchy roots like the potato. Besides meat, starchy roots were a favorite.

Wheat btw is a Neolithic phenomenon. And there is some proof that grains are toxic and that some of those toxins aren’t annihilated with cooking. Grains being toxic is an evolutionary trait meant to discourage mammals and insects from eating the seeds. Fruits are meant to be eaten, but not seeds.

Could insects be toxic too? The dose makes the poison, plus it takes decades for us to observe the effects.

Also deep fried food is unhealthy, no matter the food. Vegetable oils and high temperatures don’t mix well.

If it takes decades to notice the effects of a toxin, it's not very potent and there certainly isn't going to be much of an evolutionary drive against it.

Somehow i don't think a restaurant selling raw potatoes will suceed much though :)

I meant that you can eat potatoes raw and it won’t make you sick and it won’t give you nausea.

I think this clip sums it up pretty well. Albeit, they're talking about living in tiny houses. But it's the same general idea. Joey's commentary is on point, IMO.


Also happens to be hilarious, but I don't disagree with the point he's making.

TL;DR Most people don't live like that because more desirable choices are available, and they're prepared to spend more to achieve that.

It’s not so strange to eat bugs. Aren’t crustaceans, particularly crawfish and the like, the bugs of the sea? They certainly look and behave like insects, scavenging the ocean floor.


If you've ever handled bugs like scorpions or larger arthropods, they're remarkably similar to crawfish or crabs. They're virtually the same thing. There are aquatic and terrestrial arthropods which are literally the same type of 'bugs'. Whales and deer are not alike in the same way.

If you've ever handled bugs like scorpions or larger arthropods, they're remarkably similar to crawfish or crabs. They're virtually the same thing.

How many millions of years ago would we need to go back, to find the common ancestor?

Whales and deer are not alike in the same way.

Same question, I suppose. A longer span of time, or shorter?

we should all eat whale, since they're related to deer.

The main reason we don't eat whale is that they're going extinct in the wild and are impossible to farm (neither which are true about insects). Before we realized that large scale whaling was a bad idea we ate a lot more whale.

In Western Civ., was whale eaten, or was whale used primarily for it's whale oil?

In places where it is/was eaten does that happen sustainably? (Japan excluded...)

In Western Civ., was whale eaten

My understanding is that it used to be quite normal in Europe back when whales were plentiful and relatively easy to catch off the French and Spanish coasts. However by the end of 17th-century whale stocks there had completely collapsed due to overfishing, and it fell out of favour as food. In Europe it's really only Norway, Iceland and Greenland that continued eating whale into modern times and even there it's popularity has dropped dramatically since the 80s.

Not exactly "Western" Civ, but Native American tribes along the west coast would hunt whales, and the Makah are still allowed to on the grounds that it's a tradition, though that's obviously limited by necessity due to whale populations (I think the can only take one each year).

I think that's a pretty convincing argument that people considered whales to be food for some time.

I was very apprehensive when i first tried roasted crickets. By the time i was on my second spoonful, i was wondering the same. Why haven't i had more of them?

It's the mental block that we've been conditioned with. That bugs are "disgusting" things.

I had a similar experience. I've had fried crickets, they are delicious. It is like eating a tasty crispy french fry.

I've had deep fried crickets and deep fried mealy worms. I think its was the preparation that put me off them.

The crickets tasted/felt like semi crunchy shells. Not very enjoyable to eat and the after effect was lumps of ground up shell in my teeth.. meh

The mealy worms were not quite as bad as the crickets but waaaay overpowered by the herbs and stuff mixed in with them.

I'm also very much anti deep fried anything so I'd really like to try them prepped another way.

It's not about being squeamish. It's about having better options.

My ancestors (up to a generation ago) lived in a place that was a frozen wasteland for half the year (so no bugs for all that time) and basically subsisted off grains, cabbage in various stages of decomposition and products of animals that could actually survive long enough to be useful.

As efficient as it seems today to be able to farm crickets, for farmers a few generations ago it would have been much easier to simply keep a few cows, pigs, and plant things than waste time trying to catch crickets and grasshoppers who can't even survive the winter. There's a reason the cultures who do eat bugs do so opportunistically and don't waste a ton of resources on it.

We don't eat bugs because nobody has yet developed a machine that can affordably extract the meat.

We don't eat cattle whole. When we make burgers, we leave out the skin and poop and horns and teeth. Bugs aren't any different.

If you were 1000x the size of a cow, you probably could (and would) eat it whole, as your teeth would mash through bone and skin without a problem.

I could, but I wouldn't, because those parts taste bad. The poop is particularly awful.

The are a lot of things that people eat whole, such as sardines, anchovies, and other small fish. Some cultures even use bile as a flavoring (see Papaitan from the Philippines), and others eat bugs (crickets and grasshoppers are very popular).

In the USA we don't do that.

Our sardines and anchovies have the head and guts removed, and probably the tail. We do sometimes eat skin and bones. The same goes for canned salmon and herring.

We also peel, decapitate, and gut our shrimp. This is probably a better comparison because the exoskeleton is similar.

No idea why people don't eat more but I like eating deep fried insects e.g. rice grasshopper, silkworm etc. the taste is just as awesome as mainstream the deep fried chicken or french fried sort of things that we have been eating since we was child :) also, where I live they even sell insects as snack packaged food (Exactly like potato chips packaging) in supermarket and minimart these days. I don't mean I eat them as my primary source of protein but rather just eating it as a snack during watching movie at home instead of popcorn.

You can get every kind of bug on some markets in China. They taste disgusting. In Korea you can get silk worms in cans. They taste neutral. If prepared fresh on the street the taste is hardly bearable for any Westerner.

You now buy an insect burger in Germnany https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/22/bug-appetite-g...

I think there are recommendations on the maximum amount of bugs that can fall into a can of green beans or a bag of potato chips. So per year I've eaten a certain amount of bugs without knowing. Ignorance is probably biss.

Is there a good field guide to edible insects of New England, or does one just need to join an entymology club?

I look into this every couple years and I have yet to find anything good.

I've heard that I'm unknowingly "eating" bugs everyday by drinking ground coffee

I don't know if it's a fact or a myth

There are almost no crops that are totally free from bugs, coffee has extra stages of sitting and drying too which would do it no favors either. It's just not enough to worry about, just like the shit you inhale when you smell a fart.

Haven't seen many bugs in our coffee machine yet and none of the beans looked like bugs either.

Perhaps when buying ground coffee instead of beans. But then, all industrially processed food items contain parts that you wouldn't intentionally put in, simply because it's hard to prevent foreign objects completely at scale. Heck, I guess apple juice might have quite a few bugs in it, too.

My best case imagination of the future is that we get all our dietary protein from buffalo worms. Insects are some of the most efficient systems for converting plant mater in to human dietary protein, the fact that humans have a disgust response against them is one of the saddest facts impacting the future of our planet.

I'd like to eat insects, but they're a lot more expensive than chicken.

If access to meat is the problem, why not just go vegan?

Cricket flour tastes, like, really bad.


Milk is for infants anyway, whichever species.

My milk adapted genes disagree. If I wasn't suppose to eat it my ancestors wouldn't have adapted/evolved the ability to eat an unlimited amount of dairy without a problem.

Good mutations can be random. Being able to drink milk doesn't have any harmful effects, so it stays. Most of humans are lactose intolerant. 99% of mammals are lactose intolerant. But all mammal infants drink milk. Drinking milk might be beneficial, but it's more likely a random mutation that wasn't selected against since it had no harm and gave a little more calory source to humans.

My lactose intolerance disagrees.

We do all the time. Ever had lobster?

Shell fishes have marinated in a tasty iodine and mineral packed salted water, that also have the benefit of preserving it from a lot of infectuous agents.

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