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Attack of the edible insects

(article, Caroline Cummins)

As Miriam Wolf recently noted on Chow, the United Nations is now officially encouraging the consumption of insects. Of course, many Asians, Africans, and Latinos take bug meat for granted, but the Western world still gets a little bugged out by the idea, as Liz Crain has already pointed out here on Culinate.

We should get over it, says the UN, because not only are insects cheap and (with the exception of honey bees) plentiful, they're great sources of protein and minerals. Forget chicken; grubs and crickets are where it's at.

Want the stats? According to the Associated Press, "The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 1,400 species of insects and worms are eaten in almost 90 countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia." Snacks include the aforementioned grubs and crickets as well as ants, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and locusts.

The Guardian pointed out in January that insects are an "environmentally friendly food source: low impact, consuming very little in the way of feed, easy to harvest, with no special measures required for their husbandry . . . They are plentiful, and account for over half of the known species on the planet. We spend billions of pounds trying to control or eradicate them, when we could just be eating them. So why don't we?"

If you do down insects with delight, according to National Public Radio, you're entomophagous, or a bug-eater. If you're not, you might want to check out Ugly Food, a blog devoted to "ugly, disgusting, and untasty food." Dig the Japanese rice crackers embedded with dead wasps. Or not.