Don Bugito (and edible insects)

It’s been a really great month for entomophagy (bug eating)!  Daniella Martin of Girl Meets Bug headlined a big special edition of the San Francisco Weekly that was also picked up by NPR.  I really liked this quote from the star-studded array of insect foodies that were interviewed:

land shrimp

“You have to scratch your head, from a logical perspective,” says Zack Lemann, chief entomologist at the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans. “Why do we eat shrimp and crawfish but not their brethren on land?”

Exactly! I still think Dave’s name of Land Shrimp was a great re-branding of bug food.

I liked this video profile of Monica Martinez, the woman behind the Don Bugito food cart in San Francisco.  Her comparison of current attitudes about eating insects to western attitudes about sushi 10 years ago is a good one. I think she’s missed a major marketing comparison, though–eating bugs is the ULTIMATE paleo diet!

BTW, you can find the plans for the Wurm-Haus here.

8 thoughts on “Don Bugito (and edible insects)

  1. Just this summer, and entirely on her own initiative, my 6-year-old daughter has decided that she likes grasshoppers as a treat. She catches the grasshoppers, helps me pull off the heads and remove the long legs[1], then watches as I fry them in a little butter. Then she eats them. They’re pretty good. We just haven’t worked out a good way to catch them in quantity yet.

    [1] “Do not eat the long parts of the legs, as they have spines that can get stuck in your throat.” – U.S. Army Survival Manual

  2. “Land shrimp.” That’s good. I’ve only ever eaten insects by cycling with my mouth open. I think it’s to do with the colour. A shrimp’s such a lovely pink when it’s cooked. I mean… a wood lice: cook it and I think it would still be grey and leggy.

  3. Currently, in most of the world entomophagy is a form of hunting – taking insects from the wild as opportunity allows. Like other forms of hunting (including fishing) that would not be sustainable if we really went at it. So to replace part of the current Western diet, we would have to domesticate them, like we have done with the honeybee.

    I wonder if anyone has sat down and thought out what the unintended consequences of domesticating one or more insects as a staple food would involve. As Tim notes for grasshoppers, “They’re pretty good. We just haven’t worked out a good way to catch them in quantity yet.” and the quote from the US Army Survival Manual.

    I suspect it would be fairly straightforward to breed a strain of fat, flightless grasshoppers with smooth legs and without the ability to sequester toxins (‘tobacco juice’), but then you would have to feed them, herd them, and keep them off your neighbours and their crops. Doesn’t sound easy to me and I suspect the environmental consequences could be very unpleasant. For example, you would have to keep the wild predators, parasitoids, and diseases away. Mealworms and other insects that feed on our stored products would be easier to contain, but would have similar problems with wild antagonists and doesn’t sound like an efficient use of wheat and corn. Perhaps an aquatic insect would be best – but we already have larger and easy to rear crustaceans.

    By the way, the first time I heard the insect-’shrimp’ connection was about 15 years ago when an Australian CSIRO entomologist (probably tongue somewhat in cheek) put out a pamphlet calling the plague locust “land prawns” and suggesting eating the bounty. I tried to google it, but gave up be cause ‘land prawns’ were alien animals both in Dr Who and a sci-fi novel by H. Beam Piper called “Little Fuzzy”. The latter has a great paragraph that just might illustrate some problems with farming insects: “He detested land-prawns. They were horrible things, which, of course, wasn’t their fault. More to the point, they were destructive. They got into things at camp; they would try to eat anything. They crawled into machinery, possibly finding the lubrication tasty, and caused jams. They cut into electric insulation. And they got into his bedding, and bit, or rather pinched, painfully. Nobody loved a landprawn,
    not even another land-prawn.”

  4. Macromite: There is a demo of a system for rearing insects in this video. Crickets and scorpions are reared at home by individuals in China, as well as some other asian countries. The bait and science supply industry are already producing large amounts of insects. I think it’s a lot more do-able than me putting a cow or chickens in my back yard.

    Having said that–rearing insects takes a fair amount of time to keep everyone healthy and hydrated. It’s not an effort-free process, especially for just one person rearing at home.
    But with a much higher conversion rate of feed:mass than any of our vertebrate food animals, I hope it will prove to be profitable eventually.

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