Why Eat Bugs #7: Easy to Cook (But Awkward To Get)

August 18, 2014

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I cooked my first batch of bugs.

Not lobsters. Although New Englanders playfully refer to lobsters as “bugs.”

I cooked terrestrial arthropods, not the more culinary-acceptable aquatic arthropod.

I decided to start my insect-cooking journey with the wax moth tacos popularized by the Don Bugito food cart in San Francisco and featured in Daniella Martin’s awesome entomophagy treatise, Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet.

First, I had to figure out where to get the bugs to eat.

I figured it would be the same place you would get bugs to feed a pet lizard.

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It’s weird to think of a grocery run to Petsmart. I’ve never had a lizard—or anything—to buy bugs for. I decided to call ahead.

I called PetSmart on the west side and was connected with live reptile department. I asked, “Do you have waxworms?”

The Petsmart guy says, “Let me see.” He puts me on hold. 3 minutes pass. I’m weirdly giddy. He returns, “Yes”

I ask, “Are they alive?”

He says, “Yes.”

I ask, “Are they wax moth larvae?”

Hey says, “I don’t know. It just says ‘waxworms.’ What do you want them for?”

“Um… for an iguana,” I lie.

“Iguanas don’t eat waxworms. They should only be eating apples. You should not be feeding your iguana waxworms.”

At this point, I should hang up. But I can’t help defending my treatment of this non-existent iguana. I dig in deeper, “Oh, I don’t know what kind of lizard it is yet. It’s a gift.”

He responds with preachy helpfulness, “Well, you shouldn’t start with an iguana for a beginner. Iguanas or chameleons, no way. There are many other lizards that are much better to start out with. I have 18 years experience handling lizards. I can set you up properly. Why don’t you come in. I’m here till 8“

“Okay,” I lie. And hang up.

I realize I’m going to have to go in. To avoid Overzealous Lizard Man, I go to the Petsmart on the other side of town.

It’s an easy enough transaction. I am careful not to ask questions.

David George Gordon’s Eat-A-Bug Cookbook suggests freezing the waxworms over night to humanely kill them and any bacteria. I freeze them for 3 days just to be sure. Plus, I’m not eager to do this.  Despite all the reasons I’ve accumulated as a pre-emptive self-persuasion to eat bugs, I’m still beholden to my culturally-constructed food avoidance. Plus,  it seems a little different to actually have to cook them.

Nonetheless, here’s my journey…

STEP 1: Poured a strong drink.

photo 2STEP 2: Opened up the waxworm container, took a deep breath, and a big gulp from the strong drink.

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STEP 3: Cleaned up the bugs from the wood shavings.

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STEPS 4-6: Fried up onions, peppers in olive oil. Added the waxworms. Fried the shit out of them. In the hot oil, the waxworms stretched out and became orzo-like, and then crinkle-cut-french-fry-like.

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STEP 7: Drained bugs. Took a deep breath, and another big sip from the strong drink.

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STEP 8: Made it look pretty on a tortilla. I added guacamole, queso fresco, tomato, fried waxwoms.

photo 5STEP 9: Enjoyed.

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They tasted like a fried crunchy meat with a soft nuttiness. Completely pleasant. I had 3 of these. It was very easy to cook. Like frying up some tilapia or shrimp for tacos.

Now, I’m feeling a little more ambitious. May invite some friends over next. But this could be the strong drink talking.

Why Eat Bugs #6: No Mad Mealworm Disease

August 13, 2014

Do you ever think about the young dance instructor who is now paralyzed after eating an E. coli-tainted hamburger?

I do. Habitually. I think about her every time I am about to handle any raw beef, chicken, or pork. I feel like I’m playing a russian roulette (albeit a lower risk version) by just touching some hamburger that could devastate my life. images (2) The UN Insect Food and Feed Report notes how the extreme conditions of industrial livestock production and processing (the crowding, filth, cannibalism) has led to a rise in antimicrobial resistance and the spread of horrendous zoonotic diseases (a disease is an infection/infestation shared by humans and animals): mad cow disease, swine flu, bird flu, foot and mouth disease, SARS.

And then I think about when an outbreak is discovered, how it leads to the extermination entire herds of at-risk animals.

The scope of waste is breathtaking.

It’s also another great reason to add bugs to the grocery list.

Although the UN report notes how “insects for food and feed have not been sufficiently tested to determine the risk that they will transmit diseases to humans,” it also adds “because insects are taxonomically much more distant from humans than conventional livestock, the risk of zoonotic infections is expected to be low.”

In their dissimilarity, what effects them most likely will not affect us.

However, bugs are often associated with disease. And there is good reason for that. Some insects can serve as biological taxis (like mosquitoes, ticks, flies) for blood-bourne diseases like malaria, chagas disease, lyme disease.

But we’re not eating mosquitoes, ticks, flies. At least, I’m not. But some people do. (I might.) termite-mushroom-22023577 Recently, I asked a local miller about the possibility using his facility to produce cricket flour. In his polite dismissal of my inquiry, he led with food safety and bacteria concerns.

Although I backed off, I wanted to say that he’s already grinding bugs. Which he knows.  And the government allows it. From the FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook, it permits 75 insect fragments per 50 grams of flour. The government is well aware of the safety of eating insects and already approves of set (and significant) amounts of insects in commercially-available foods. For example, it permits…

  • 60 aphids in 3 ounces of broccoli (less than half a serving)
  • 10 or more fly eggs per 100 grams of tomato juice (a small juice glass?
  • over 20 or more maggots of any size per 100 grams of drained mushrooms (a cup of drained mushrooms is about 150 grams)

BONUS: Both Danielle Martin’s awesome Edible and David George Gordon’s great Eat-A-Bug Cookbook explain why ketchup bottles have that second paper label around the neck of the bottle. “Before modern homogenization equipment was used to process foods, the darker-colored bug parts would float to the top of the ketchup bottle, leaving an unappetizing black ring”(Martin). So the second label was originally intended to “cover up the carcasses” (Gordon). download

This is all to say, we’re already eating bugs in a major way. And those bugs are not what’s in our food that makes us sick.

Also in Gordon’s cookbook, he notes how bugs are like chicken or pork. They do have to be thoroughly cooked to eliminate bacteria. Any mass-produced edible insects would have to follow the same health and sanitation regulation that all traditional food and feed items currently do. Edible insect startups would be well-advised to go above and beyond with meeting these regulations.

So, when I begin working with my batch of wax worms for my first-ever Don Bugito-inspired wax moth tacos (I will be hosting my fist bug culinary night), I can at least not worry about an arthropod spongiform encephalopathy.

I just need to worry about how I’m going to get them to eat the tacos.

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Why Eat Bugs #5: Apocalypse-Avoidance

August 7, 2014

download (2) In Daniella Martin’s hip treatise for eating bugs, Edible, she imagines a fantasy fast food restaurant where in addition to what you order, you also get the by-products of what it took to make your order. So when you get your burger, you also get…

  • 1,000 gallons of contaminated water
  • 4lbs of manure
  • The carbon residue from the use of 1 gallon of gas
  • 200 cubic ft of a feed lot that will take years to restore

Topped that off with a large toxic methane plume. Want to change your order? A McRib would also get you…

  • 600 gallons of contaminated water
  • 5lbs of pig shit
  • Smaller methane plume

Finally, a McNuggets 10-piece comes with…

  • 150 gallons of contaminated water
  • 1lb of feces
  • Less methane

This is all to say that our daily food choices have a significant environmental impact we do not appreciate.  And of course conventional animal protein production overall adds up to a huge impact on our land and water…

With a population set to grow almost 30% in the next 35 years, we’re going to need to double current food production (according to UN estimates). Not only is there not enough land to support this increase, the ecological impact to already-limited water resources would be devastating. Like Mad-Max-post-apocalyptic-water-wars-type devastating. mad-max What if we could increase food production while decreasing the environmental impact to land and water? Large-scale insect farming could be that solution. Although the exact numbers on the water to raise insects in a farm setting are unavailable (but Youngstown’s Big Cricket Farms may soon have answers…), it can be assumed they would be significantly lower. Consider the drought-resistance of mealworms and crickets. And consider Pat Crowley, a water conservationist who came up with his cricket energy bars—Chapul—to show how a protein source could be produced using minimal water resources. See their neat chart (and order some bars…Mark Cuban has…). waterconservationdiagram

 

Awesome chart by Nick Hiebert at the University of Manitoba

 

 

And then consider land use. Crickets don’t need to be grown on the prairie, and perhaps it may be more risky to due to pesticide exposure. It’s already been shown the advantages of urban honey production. Insect husbandry may be a way to reclaim abandoned industrial and urban spaces. Tiny Farms has already designed and offers cricket farming structures you can setup in your own garage–and who knows, eventually in multi-story cricket protein production facilities.563946_orig BONUS: Instead taking all the corn we’re so great at overproducing and putting it into obesity-  and diabetes-inducing high fructose corn syrup, it can be fed to protein-enriching crickets who are efficient corn-processing machines.

So perhaps when you order your McCricket of the future  (or of the now if you’re in NYC), you can avoid the methane plume, walk off with a fraction of the water. Don’t know about the cricket poop. Yet. Grasshopper Slider.jpg

Why Eat Bugs #4: Sustainable Paleo

July 27, 2014

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There is a great article in the July 28th New Yorker overviewing the concepts and history of the paleo diet movement as writer (and environmental expert) Elizabeth Kolbert goes full paleo for her family for  a week.

With Kolbert’s entertaining and informative flair, she runs through the highlights and arguments for the paleo diet (namely, how agriculture is the worst mistake man has ever made…an idea popularized in the landmark piece by Jared Diamond).

Although she comes across cautiously supportive of the diet, she nonetheless ends the article by dismissing it for its unsustainability:

Whether or not agriculture was the worst mistake in the history of the human race, the choice, once made, was for the good. With a global population of 7 billion people, heading rapidly to toward 8 billion, there’s certainly no turning back now. Pound for pound, beef production demands at least 10x as much water as wheat production, and, calorie for calorie, it demands almost 20x as much energy…All of which to say that, from an environmental standpoint, paleo’s “let them eat steak” approach is a disaster.

I wonder if she conferred with her New Yorker counterpart Dana Goodyear, who’s awesome 2011 article on entomophagy got me thinking about the whole bug thing.

I’ve already written about the sustainability advantages of insect husbandry over traditional forms of animal protein production. But I’m only now realizing how well bugs fit in the paleo lifestyle.

I’m not super into paleo, but I do the Crossfit thing and it’s inevitable that you get introduced to the diet at your local box. I agree with a lot of paleo principles and did try going full paleo for a month. It took a lot of adjusting with me doing a lot of cooking and working with a lot of new grocery (coconut flour… who knew?). After going through a sluggish period of what I can only understand as “gluten-withdrawal,” I felt awesome and lost a few pounds.

Although I continue to try new paleo dishes and limit my intake of processed flour (but not sugar… holy moly I have a problem there), ultimately it’s a pretty time-consuming, repetitive, and expensive diet to maintain whole hog.

But if I had access to a cheap, healthy, and very paleo food source…

Insects were most definitely part of the original paleo diet. Cavedudes were more likely crunching on cicadas than they were on bacon-wrapped avocados.

And certain bugs are very nutritious food sources with high protein, fiber, vitamin, and mineral content. For example, the recent United Nations report calls out mealworms as having a similar offering of protein, vitamin and minerals as in fish and meat. Furthermore, the Robb Wolf blog also makes the paleo-bug connection and posts some actual numbers on the nutritional content of a variety of bugs. For example, see how well some bugs compare protien-wise to beef and fish…

 

From the great The Food Insects Newsletter, July 1996

 

Insect Protein (g)
Giant Water Beetle 19.8
Grasshopper 20.6
Caterpillar 28.2
Beef (Lean Ground) 27.4
Fish (Broiled Cod) 28.5

Already, the savvy Exo are selling on the paleo-bug connection with their protein bars made from nuts and cricket flour, with each bar consisting of an equivalent of 25 crickets. (BTW…If anyone has tried these things, let me know. I’m on the fence on going all in on a $40 box.)

However, I’m guessing the production costs and processing involved with getting crickets into the protein bar form would limit the sustainability. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

But a cricket that is straight-up simply roasted with a little chili-lime flavoring might prove to be a very “sustainable paleo” offering.

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Luckily, the San Francisco food cart Don Bugito is offering this online. I just bought some for a very reasonable $5. Will let you know how it goes…

Some Things I Learned From SALT SUGAR FAT

July 21, 2014

This is an excellent food marketing book with a focus on the 3 bad boys of processed foods–SALT SUGAR FAT.

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By devoting a section to each, Michael Moss examines how big food’s disingenuous marketing and addiction-inducing formulations have helped to drive our obesity epidemic and continuing bad-food choices, where we now consume:

  • 3 times as much cheese we did in 1970
  • 22 teaspoons of sugar a day (the AHA recommends 9)
  • Double the recommended amount of salt

By showing how we came to this sugary-salty-fatty Gomorrah, it’s insightful to learn how it wasn’t inevitable, but the unintended outcome of myopic profit-seeking strategies.

For example, in the 1980s Wall Street began moving money from blue chip companies (that included established food businesses) to the tech and financial industries for their quicker returns. This put the pressure on food companies to deliver a similar rate of return. So foods became more convenient, more alluring, and came in bigger portions…damn the resulting fatties…and the $90 billion annually we all have to pay from the health effects of obesity.

Food companies were able to get us to consume more by taking advantage of how our brains don’t know what our body needs. Our cravings are not the result of physical needs, but the result of emotional triggers that food companies have become expert in manipulating. This body/mind dissonance is due to quirks in our evolutionary development, where our body is so afraid of starvation it freaks out with hunger signals when it comes across any cues that the body may need food.

I learned a ton so will take a tasty and nourishing morsel from each section…

  • SUGAR: Sensory-Specific Satiety. “We like foods that have an identifiable strong flavor, but we tire of them quickly.” This is to help drive our body’s need for varied nutrients, whereby the power of one overwhelming flavor can trigger a feeling of fullness for that flavor, and direct it to another. Those spicey garlic pork rinds may be good for you in how they can immediately trip the fullness switch with one mind-boggling bite. However, most big food companies exploit the inverse of this phenomenon, where we don’t feel immediately as full from less flavorful foods. This explains the success of Coke over Pepsi. Pepsi repeatedly wins in taste tests for its distinctive flavor. But Coke maintains its dominance (and insidiousness) because it is forgettable in such a way that the brain continues to want more of it.
  • FAT: No Bliss Point for Fat. Food industries scientists seek food formulations that achieve the “bliss point” for consumers…that precise amount and mix of flavors that sends us into a narcotic euphoria and craving (just before sensory-specific satiety sets in). However, this point is for the most part a curve (more accurately, it’s plateau-shaped). You can make a cookie or a potato chip too sweet or salty so that it becomes less enjoyable. But experiments have found that this isn’t so true for fat. Test subjects only went so far with sugary or salty formulations, but they did not stop with the fatty ones. No matter how rich the food, it was so pleasing to the brain that it never gave a signal to stop eating…which may be due to our evolutionary need for energy-dense foods. This has contributed to the rise of the main vehicle for saturated fat: processed cheese. When skim milk became popular, this left food producers with an excess of milkfat on their hands. They found they could still make a profit on it by sneakily reintroducing it back to the consumers who were trying to avoid it…but putting cheese into everything. In crust, in Lunchables, mixed with chocolate…
  • SALT: We Are Not Born with a Taste for Salt, Nor Is It Irreversible. Although babies are born with a craving for the sweet, this is not true of the salty. A study of 2 groups of babies—one subjected to their parents’ normal salt-heavy diets, another who were on a salt-restricted diet—demonstrated how the first group developed an increasing desire for salt (getting into licking salt piles right off the plate), whereas the second could care less. The more we are exposed to salt, the more we want it. So food companies effectively created a salt craving where none existed…resulting in an epidemic of high-blood pressure and heart disease. However, this salt addiction can be reversed. It was also discovered that those put on a low-salt diet eventually reduced their taste for it.

And if we’re talking food, I’m eventually going to talk bugs (I’m a great dinner guest).

The industry often defends its use of salty-sugary-fatty-ness as a means to produce tasty but cheap foods, which will help meet inevitable food crisis we’ll have with 9 billion mouths to feed. However, the devastating health consequences of using these ingredients to make processed food palatable make this problematic at best, and kinda evil.

Instead, the low cost of processed unhealthy food are thwarting the development of healthier ways of feeding the world.

Like with bugs!

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Why Eat Bugs #3: Humane Husbandry

July 14, 2014

Debeaking chickens so they can’t peck each other to death in their cannibalism-inducing close quarters. The “docking” (or dismemberment) of piglet tails to avoid insanely bored pigs from eating those tails off.  The feeding of cows to cows in the form of bovine-rendered protein disguised in their feed like a banal farm-version of the meat-pie scene in “Titus Andronicus.”

Industrial animal husbandry is a horror show.

And yet, however much I am disgusted by this horror show, the disgust is forgotten or compartmentalized or overwhelmed when I’m confronted with a plate of golden-fried chicken, the aroma of BBQ ribs, a medium-rare peppercorn-encrusted rib-eye. I can very much enjoy the delicious ends, however vaguely aware I am of the monstrous means.

Nonetheless, unease persists. I can’t bring myself to watch the industry footage in documentaries like PETA’s “Meet Your Meat.” In part, this avoidance is out of an anticipated annoyance of PETA’s expected shrill and self-righteous rhetoric (even if it’s delivered in the rich baritone of ).

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But it is also out of a refusal to confront the discomforting (and let’s face it, unnecessary) recognition of my own complicity in perpetuating institutionalized cruelty with my meat-heavy food choices.

Because with that recognition, my latent conscience will demand some action. And perhaps what keeps me in this passive denial is a sense that there are no viable alternatives.

Expensive and dubiously-labelled free-range options? Expensive perhaps as ethically-questionable pescatariansim? Bland and complicated veganism?

At my best, I practice moderation to mitigate the feelings of guilt. I go vegetarian once a week. Sometimes. I think. It’s been a few weeks. (Months.)

But what if chickens loved being crowded together? What if pigs naturally teemed in some wild pork pyramid? What if cows naturally and unproblematically feasted on each other?

Crickets, worms, ants, and many other edible insects prefer and thrive in these conditions. The despicable practices of commercial farming are humane when applied to insects. So these long-standing practices that have proven effectiveness in maximizing yields could be applied lovingly to insects without invoking the hypocritical outrage of folks like me.

Even better, many insects consume organic waste. So entomophagy can mitigate both my animal cruelty guilt along with my recycling guilt.

Tiny Farms even gives you the opportunity to practice you’re own ethical husbandry with their open-source farm kit. (I’m thinking about it…)

However, it still remains to be tasted how good of an alternative this is. I have not yet eaten a bug-only meal and am skeptical despite my fondness for the unconventional.

But I’m hoping there is more to bug-eating than just the superficial appeal of the bizarre. There are a lot of good reasons for eating bugs. (I have already considered feed-conversion rates and entomophagy’s carbon footprint. The humaneness of its production may also amplify the enjoyment. A lot goes into pleasure.

And I would be remiss in bringing up ethics without addressing the qualms of killing a living thing that feels pain. Genius David Foster Wallace’s perfect essay “Consider the Lobster” (that appeared in the 2004 issue of Gourmet as the most beautifully mispublished works in American journalism) tangled with the morality of boiling a creature alive for one’s pleasure.

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Maybe this requires its own blog post. For now, I can only admit my own perhaps flawed moral scale. I feel better about the consumption of a cow’s weight in crickets than putting one cow through the institutionalized terror of commercial beef production.

And speaking of lobster… if we can get over and actually charge a premium for the consumption of such a weird-looking gross bottom feeder (that eats whatever is on the ocean floor, like fish carcasses, droppings, filth, etc.), it may not be so much to get into a similarly-carapaced arthropod like the grasshopper that only eats grass in the open light of day. Seems like a pretty good alternative.

Some things I learned from THE POWER OF HABIT

July 8, 2014

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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business by Charles Duhigg was a fun behavioral econ read about how our brains turn one-time decisions into repeated behaviors, and how that can be manipulated or optimized—for ourselves, organizations, and society. 40% of our actions are the result of habits, and not conscious decisions—so it’s wise to think about what we spend a lot of doing and not thinking about.

I have some minor gripes with the book. Duhigg goes off the rails in applying the habit framework. Instead of interpreting clearly identifiable habits, he applies it to behaviors and trends that strain the definition (like the civil rights movement). The book suffers from that condition of a hammer, to whom everything looks like a nail. To this guy writing about habits, everything looks like a habit.

Nonetheless, it’s written with an enjoyably brisk journalistic style and I learned a bunch, including…

  • Habits have a 3-part structure: Our brains form habits as a means to conserving effort. I once exerted precious brain-energy to actively seek out some sweet fresh morning bakery. Now I just automatically make a bakery stop on the way back from my Crossfit workout. (The brain is good at habit formation, not so good at mitigating cognitive dissonance.) The habit structure is as follows: 1. the cue (I’ve finished my sweaty morning workout); 2. the routine (I eat a sugary baked treat); 3. the reward (I exalt in the sugar-endorphin haze).

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  • It’s more effective to tweak an existing bad habit than it is to eliminate it: When it comes to the self-help portion of the book, there’s no new age (and grammatically incoherent) talk of being “more present” in our actions. Duhigg accepts habit formation as inevitable. Such brain-energy-saving strategies are how our brains are able to function.  I could try to just stop wolfing down pain au chocolats in my sweaty gym cloths, but that’s unlikely to work. Once a habit is formed, it’s difficult to eliminate altogether. It’s more effective to tweak the unwanted routine part of the “habit loop.” This is how Alcoholics Anonymous can be effective. For many alcoholics, it’s not the drunkenness that’s their reward, but the bar-room social interactions that accompanies it. So AA responds to the loneliness cue that might compel one to a bar by replacing the evening drinking routine with an evening meeting routine, while generating the same social reward. However, this takes an acute awareness of the cues and rewards that drive a habit, which isn’t immediately evident. For my post-workout bakery routine, is my cue the workout? Should I really stop blasting my quads? Is my reward really the sugar-endorphin buzz? Some helpful suggestions are posed on how I might go about figuring this out.
  • The strength of weak ties: This insight came out of the problematic portion of the book regarding the habits of societies, and how the civil rights movement was mobilized from out of a society habit formation pattern. I’m skeptical of how much habit formation plays into this, but I thought his description of the role of social networks in motivating action was insightful. Rosa Parks was not the only African American to be arrested for sitting in the wrong part of the bus in Montgomery in 1955. But she was extremely well connected, as an active member of many organizations. As a result, she had many “weak ties,” many acquaintances from these social groups.  Weak-tie acquaintances can be more important than close friends because weak ties “give us access to social networks where we don’t otherwise belong,” introducing us to new ideas or opportunities or issues we would not be familiar with. In this way, our weak ties can be more influential than our strong-tie relationships. Parks’ many weak ties help to encourage the Montgomery masses to get involved after her incarceration, and not the many racist bus incidents that preceded it. (So if this bug-eating movement is to take off, I need more shallow pals…)

Why Eat Bugs #2: Carbon Footprint

July 6, 2014

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In my continuing effort to persuade myself to get into eating bugs (or entomophagy…or “Prairie Shrimping”), it’s compelling consider the impact it would have on carbon footprints.

Not to poop in everyone’s 4th-of-July BBQ, but conventional animal protein production requires a huge energy expenditure, for…

  • growing a massive amount of feed,
  • transporting the feed and animals,
  • operating the feed mills, factory farms, slaughterhouses, and meat-processing plants,
  • keeping the meat refrigerated

Here are some comparisons to give context to the amount of fuel needed for your meat-orgy of a picnic…

  • It takes as much fuel drive a car 10 miles as it does to produce 1 half-pound beef patty.
  • It takes 1 gallon of fuel to produce 1 pound of grain-fed beef.
  • To provide the yearly average beef consumption of an American family of 4 requires over 260 gallons of fuel.
  • It takes 28 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of meat protein.

[CONFESSION: I'm no carbon-abstaining saint (yet). I did buy 16lbs of shoulder meat this weekend for an epic ancho-flavored slow-roast. The amount of carbon dioxide this caused is equivalent to a drive from Madison, WI to Little Rock, AK... but this trip would in no way be equivalent in epicness to the resulting smoky-spicy tacos.]

The United Nations estimates that livestock-related emissions comprise about 14.5% of all manmade greenhouse gas output. That is a huge amount for an activity that doesn’t even register for many of us as a big energy consumer. (The top 2 are electricity at 32% and transportation at 28%.)

The world’s population is projected to grow almost 30% in the next 35 years, reaching 9 billion in 2050. If conventional animal protein continues to be relied upon, the already huge food-production emissions will continue to rise.

So about the footprint. A recent University of Oxford study determined how our eating choices impact our carbon footprint. Here’s a comparison of kilogram of carbon dioxide produced per diet-type…

  • Heavy Meat Eaters (“heavy” means 3.5oz a day…the average American eats 4oz): 7.19 kilograms of carbon dioxide
  • Medium Meat Eaters: 5.63
  • Low Meat Eaters: 4.67
  • Fish Eaters: 3.91
  • Vegetarians: 3.81
  • Vegans: 2.89(!)

To go vegan more than halves your carbon footprint. No need for public transportation or recycling to be an environmental good guy. Even just eating less meat can have a significant impact.

Although there are no numbers on the carbon footprint for a bug-only diet, because no one does this (yet… I think…), one can imagine it would be equivalent to the pescatarian/vegetarian numbers or lower. In insect-protein production, you do not have the extensive feed and processing needs of conventional animal protein.

So whenever I do confront my first insect meal, I can be consoled that I’m going from a carbon hoof-print to a teeny-tiny carbon ant-print. But will it taste as awesome as a 4-hour-roasted pulled-pork taco… eh…

References

20 Crossfit Haiku

July 1, 2014

When I first started Crossfit awhile back, I tweeted out a haiku for the first 20 times I went. Here they are…

kbell

Day 1

Did many deadlifts

With men who bloodied themselves

Scraping weight up shins

Day 2

Too many burpees.

One hundred kettle bell swings.

High-fives all around.

Day 3

Sore from yesterday.

Bruised wrists from kettle snatches.

And now more abuse.

Day 4

First time I fall down

Snatching what I could not catch.

More shaken than sore.

Day 5

Run, burpees, deadlifts.

Old, tired, but I finish first.

Coach yells, “3 MORE ROUNDS!”

Day 6

Headstand day is a

bad day to wear loose short shorts.

Blood-filled head don’t care.

Day 7

Now, I expect that

Crossfit heart-attack feeling.

Not just scared by it.

Day 8

Coach: “You triathlete?

You can live in the pain zone.”

Me: “No. But I know.”

Day 9

My olympic lifts

Are not much of an event.

Children outlift me.

Day 10

For kipping pull-ups,

I rubberband myself to

The bar, slingshot up.

Day 11

In warm-up, girl says,

“You look like the guy from ‘House.'”

Limping, rumpled, pissed.

Day 12

Coach eyes the one thir-

ty-five I’ll try 5 thruster

sets with. Asks, “You sure?”

Day 13

My hands blister from

Eighty-eight deadlift burpees.

I wince to high-five

Day 14

Hand-release pushups

Are a self-waterboarding

When you sweat a lot.

Day 15

I do headstand holds

Even though I have a cold.

Runny nose runs up.

Day 16

It’s easy to trick

Myself to do what I can’t.

Recovering ain’t.

Day 17

My hang power clean

Is not what one would call “clean.”

I’m working on it.

Day 18

Today’s WOD: AMRAP

WB’s, DL’s and

KB’s. FML.

Day 19

Coach posted a pic

Of me doing KB swings.

Gut looks distended.

Day 20

They play nu metal.

Compelling us to work out

To barking psychos.

Why Eat Bugs #1: Feed-Conversion Rates

July 1, 2014

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I don’t eat bugs. Not in a significant self-aware way, at least. But there are many good reasons to. I want to list the reasons I find most compelling—mainly as an exercise of pre-emptive self-persuasion. So that when I am confronted with a bowl of crickets, I can use these reasons to help me to overcome my culturally-constructed food avoidance.

In other words, I will use reason to get over the gross-out.

By the way, there’s a word for bug-eating. It’s “entomophagy…” an ugly stuffy-sciency word that’s another barrier to overcome.

One big reason eat bugs involve feed conversion rates. It’s well known how unsustainable current animal protein production is. However, compare this to insect protein production.

For example, if you take 10lbs of feed, it gets you the following conventional animal protein:

chicken

5lbs of chicken

pig

3lbs of pork

cow

1lb of meat

However, if you take the same amount of feed—10lbs—and give it to crickets, you get…

cricket9lbs of cricket meat!

That’s so much protein!

Since bugs are cold- blooded, they are much more efficient at converting feed to meat than their warm-blooded counterparts…which have to waste energy keeping themselves warm. They also don’t have to grow things that aren’t edible, like bones and fur and beaks. You pretty much eat all of the the cricket.

From sustainability point-of-view, the advantages are clear. You get almost twice as much insect protein from the same amount of feed than you would from chicken. You get 9 times as much as you would from a cow.

With increasing population rates, this type of food source could be a reliable and efficient protein source. It’s already happening in Thailand. 

However, is this enough for entomophagy (or better… maybe call it “land-crabbing”?) to take off in the US? Although it’s a lot of crickets, they are still crickets.

Although, I haven’t (knowingly) eaten crickets yet (can’t wait!), the efficiency of their production is a good reason.

 

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