I have just attended the second conference held by the North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture at the University of Georgia. Eating Insects Athens, 2018, brought together participants from academia, industry and the social sciences to promote the use of insects for human and animal food. There were about 200 participants, a small group as international conferences go, but the information that they presented high-lighted the historical incorporation of insects as a significant part of man’s diet, their use as food in many parts of the world, the relatively sparse consumption of insects in North America and Europe and the considerable environmental and health advantages of eating bugs on a regular basis.
My personal interests comes at this topic from three different directions. In my softcover outdoor books, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting Deer to Dinner for Pennies Per Pound, Practical Bowfishing, Crossbow Hunting and Extreme Muzzleloading, I have chapters featuring cleaning, cooking and eating game and fish, including the organ meat and other parts that many throw away. So it is not much of a reach to consider chomping on a few bugs now and again. Willingly or not, we Southerners have been doing this for generations either by direct consumption or eating them as a minor fraction of meal, flour and vegetable products.
Insect culture and consumption is a business that is emerging in North America and provides room for innovation in supplying equipment and supplies to growers; producing a high value product anywhere, anytime under weather controlled conditions; marketing a product to a public that has been conditioned to hate and fear insects; and making a product that taste good with an enhanced nutritional aspects that a person might want to consume. These are all challenges that offer considerable profit to those who seek to meet and overcome them.
My new business book, Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife, promotes individual entrepreneurship including identifying potential growth opportunities that others may not have seen, and the commercial raising and selling of insects for human and animal food certainly qualifies as an emerging opportunity. Speakers during the conference identified two types of market. The first, as evidenced by Armstrong Crickets, is the large-scale commercial rearing of insects, like crickets. Armstrong, as a company is much more diversified, and food-grade crickets is just one part of their operation which includes raising and selling live crickets for fish bait and reptile food as well as producing meal worms and earthworms for fishermen. The second is for the smaller grower who produces specialized insects for a local market, like a maker of artisan cheese. So, insect rearing and consumption interested me because of its business possibilities in addition to insects’ potential appeal to survivalist.
I cook. In my persona as the Backyard Sportsman, I often conceive of new dishes using wild game and throwing in a few insects is no big deal. In my cooking videos I also frequently use my own knives which are derived from ancient Chinese and other ancient world patterns and made under the Hovey’s Knives of China brand in my own shop here in Georgia. At the conference there were several occasions where Chef Joseph Yoon cooked a variety of insects, including ants, meal worms, silk worms, crickets, grasshoppers, bees and scorpions. My third interest in this conference was to see what opportunities there were to derive insect dishes where the insect component was used as more than the sprinkle or garnish that Chef Yoon served on some high value product like shrimp or lobster as may be seen in the following video:
This is one of two videos that I have produced from the conference thus far. The other one features interviews with David M. Gracer of the Community College of Rhode Island about the history of entomophagy (insect eating), Jack Armstrong about the large-scale raising of crickets for bait and human consumption in his family’s 70-year-old business, Bill Broadbent with his operation packaging and selling insects from his factory in an old textile mill in Lewiston, Maine, and with Chef Joseph Yoon of Brooklyn Bugs in New York who does demonstration cooking events in New York and elsewhere. Incidentally, Yoon was quite impressed with my new knives. This is a 25-minute video and may be seen at: https://youtu.be/B6WotfCQ-8o .
This latest expression of entomophagy has grown beyond the novelty stage because of the increasing doubling rate of the human population and the enourmous drain on the earth’s production resources to produce protein by conventional grazing and feed-lot rearing of animals. Insects can be grown indoors, in unused factory spaces, stacked vertically, reared on materials that humans cannot consume, converted into easily shipable products and sold worldwide. Presently these are high-cost, high value prducts and offer conventional farmers a chance to recover crop-rearing costs by feeding their crops to higher-value insects that may be raised less expensively that beef, sheep or poltry because of the insects’ more efficient food to product production ratio.
Challenges are to reduce the product costs of insect rearing while maintaining high food safety standards. It is an unrealistic proposition that insects can be made to be absolutely safely eatable at all times under all conditions. Any food product can somehow, someway be rendered to a conditions where it will be dangerous or deadly to eat. This applies to meats, dairy products and even vegetables, grains and nuts. Accidents in the food-supply chain will happen. In the arena of eatable insects adverse health impacts be expected to be at no greater rate than any other foodstuff, like peanuts, lettice and shellfish, as the worldwide daily consumptions of insects by millions of people attest.
Help the planet. Help our fellow men. Eat more bugs.
Create Your Own Job Security
Pre-publication orders received a signed copy of the book and free shipping.