Insects: They’re what’s (not) for dinner

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It’s safe to say that Americans love meat. We spent an average of $1,100 per person on meat, fish, poultry and eggs in 2012, making up nearly 30 percent of our grocery bills. Even with the price of pork, beef and poultry soaring to record levels, experts don’t see Americans turning to insects as an alternative protein source anytime soon.

click image to zoomPlate of bugs Last year, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported insects may be just what the world needs to feed 9 billion people, the estimate of Earth’s population by mid-century.

“Insects offer a significant opportunity to merge traditional knowledge and modern science in both developed and developing countries,” according to the FAO report.  

According to the FAO, insects contains the same amount of protein, minerals and healthy fat while providing a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium and zinc. In addition to nutrition benefits, insects also have a smaller carbon footprint while providing businesses and export opportunities for those in developing countries. In fact, an estimated 2 billion people are already turning to insects. Read more here.

A panel discussion at the Institute of Food Technologists meeting supported the FAO’s finding, suggesting insects are indeed a viable alternative to traditional animal protein.  

But when it comes to meat-loving Americans, insects belong on the bottom of shoes, not in mouths. Even if insects are nutritionally and environmentally sound, Americans struggle with the squeamishness of chomping on insects.

According to WWL News, one Louisiana economist just doesn’t see the insect-fad happening in the country.

"We'll probably see, before that would happen, a shift from the animal proteins to more of the plant type proteins before you see a shift to... having insects be a large part of anybody's diet,” Louisiana State University Professor Kurt Guidry told reporters.

A beef to beans shift is more likely than bugs, according to Guidry. However, even this shift is unlikely.

"We really haven't seen much of a change in consumption patterns," he explained.

See, “Local expert says Americans won't eat bugs.”

Even a shift to a plant-based diet may be a stretch. Americans are barely eating half of the USDA’s daily recommended servings of vegetables and fruit, and an extra 100 billion pounds of fruit – and 136 billion pounds of vegetables – would need to be imported just to get the nation just to recommended levels. Even more would be required to eliminate meat from American diets completely.

“If we were to increase consumption [of fruits and vegetables] immediately today, we would probably not have the infrastructure to grow all of those products and hence some of those products would have to come from overseas,” Marco Palma, Assistant Professor and Extension Economist at Texas A&M University, said.

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PA  |  September, 28, 2014 at 05:59 PM

For the sake of argument, let's say that Americans would develop a taste for protein from insects. Farmers would start raising insects instead of beef, pork & poultry. In the process of trying to be more efficient and creating a better insect food, the industry would use GMO techniques to improve the genetics of those insects; and they would use similiar technologies to feed those insects to get them to market more quickly. I think we would end up with the same kinds of complaints that we have now: "Factory farming of insects"! NO to GMO insects! and the like. No, I just don't see the commercialization of feeding insects for a food source in the USA.

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