Bug bonanza: It’s time for Westerners to reimagine protein

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In the Gospels, John the Baptist, who wore itchy camel hair clothes under the hot sun of the Middle East, subsisted on a diet of wild locusts and honey. Today Jesus’ gastronomically adventurous cousin would be just another foot soldier in a food revolution to reclaim 10 quintillion tiny creatures for the dinner table.

It’s all part of a movement to break the taboo that Westerners have against eating the world’s most plentiful source of protein — insects.

Across the United States, high-end restaurants and even some that cater to a more downscale clientele have begun to experiment with menus that feature such fare as wax moth larvae tacos and meal worms sprinkled over conventional food like ice cream. Supermarkets have begun selling crickets that can be fried and served as gourmet delicacies to friends and loved ones eager for an exotic dining experience.

It makes sense. A United Nations report last year said Westerners should rethink their resistance to gobbling grasshoppers and other bugs. Farming insects for mass consumption would require fewer resources in land, water and energy than animals and the bugs yield more protein-rich benefits. Unlike the world’s fish stocks, which are in danger of depletion, the insect population is exploding. For these reasons, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization will hold a conference in May to push insects as human food.

Already, 2 billion people consume scorpions, larvae, worms and crickets as a regular part of their diet. Only those in the West consider it too nasty to contemplate.

With traditional sources of food undergoing strain and scarcity, humans may rediscover the wisdom of eating bugs. The next time you’re in a restaurant and find a fly in your soup, it just may be the special of the day.

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