The case for eating insects
July 15th, 2010
08:15 AM ET
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In the next 40 years, the world is going to need a 70 percent increase in food production to feed a population that will be billions larger and considerably wealthier than it is today.

Where is that food going to come from? Dutch entomologist Marcel Dicke has at least a partial answer in the six-legged creatures we call insects.

Take another look at the locust; Dicke thinks we should think of it as the “shrimp of the land,” a delicacy that people should prize.

Speaking at the TED Global conference in Oxford, England Thursday, Dicke made the case for eating insects, which come in six million species and make up 80 percent of the animals on earth. “We’re not on a planet of man but a planet of insects,” he told the audience.

Four of every five people already eat insects intentionally and they’re prized as delicacies in China and Southeast Asia. Dicke showed a photo of his visit to Lijiang, China, where he ate caterpillars, locusts and bee pupae.

The rest of us eat insects unintentionally. He pointed out that, in the United States, for example, a fair amount of insect content is legally allowed in food. Chocolate can have 60 insect components per 100 grams; peanut butter can have 30 insect parts for every 100 grams; fruit juice can have five fruitfly eggs and 1 to 2 larvae for every 250 milliliters.

Insects are a particularly efficient crop. The same amount of feed can produce 9 times as much locust food as beef, Dicke said. That will come in handy because the world won’t only have more mouths to feed; those mouths will belong to people who are more affluent, and typically will eat more and demand more meat. The potential for the growth of livestock production is very limited, Dicke said.

Why are many people in the west reluctant to eat insects? Dicke said it’s “a matter of mindset.” To help change that mindset, Dicke served insect-covered chocolate to moderator Bruno Giussani, the European director of TED, who first protested, “I’m on a diet” before giving one a try.

Cookies topped with bugs were served in the break after Dicke’s speech.

In the service of journalism, CNN’s team sampled them. Our review: sweet, crunchy - and nutritious.

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Filed under: Food Politics • Hunger • Ingredients • Insects • News


soundoff (360 Responses)
  1. Free Coupons 2014

    Thank you so much. I had issues with this as well! Ill certainly come back for more great reads.

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    February 17, 2014 at 1:30 am |
  2. Merlin

    LOL love all the coo=mments folkas

    September 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  3. essential oils

    Hi, where can I subscribe to your blog site? I like it, thanksCu

    August 9, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  4. Bill Davis

    Why can't we bake them, grind them into a powder, and mix them in a suitable proportion to other kinds of flour, especially wheat. Probably the powder would need to be bleached, as we do with flour.

    There's a certain number of insects ground into our flour as it is. They cannot all be removed in the processing.

    August 23, 2010 at 6:56 am |
  5. nohn

    nope nope nope, no insect buffet. That's why you have money...

    August 21, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  6. Rick Geary

    Articles like this really get under my skin. I think it is time for pay backs.

    August 8, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  7. WestPointWifey

    Does anyone have any honest, non-smartass recipies for those who are just starting out in trying these little suckers? Including where fresh, clean ones could be bought? Curious....

    August 8, 2010 at 2:03 am |
  8. WestPointWifey

    I think it would be interesting to try for sure. I think I might need a martini or two first, but if they were cleaned within an inch of their life and perhaps stirfried in a spicy sauce, they sound yum! Eating ants might not be so bad. Basically, as long as the "crop" were regulated somehow and cooking demonstrations were given, I'd give it a big go!!!

    August 8, 2010 at 1:56 am |
  9. Beetlejuice

    Scorpions taste really good and crunchy. Spiders taste like the sauce you dip them into and the hairs are not so nice. Centipedes taste not so good, because after cooking or roasting there is nothing left except for the outer shell, so its just crunch. Bugs and maggots taste a bit weird but with a good sauce quite acceptable. Grasshoppers I didn't try so far.

    Anyway if you could buy scorpions (from a free-range-biological-fair-trade-scorpion-farm HAHA) in big bags like potato chips, they would be on my table all the time. :D

    July 22, 2010 at 7:30 am |
  10. BobWhoLikesBeef

    Griff is right Dennis, I still would much rather eat that hormone injected cow then the fleas that buzz around my dogs poop.

    July 16, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  11. BobWhoLikesBeef

    Though I don't have much of a problem with eating bugs, its sad that the human species has gone so low as to considering eating fleas and grasshoppers.

    July 16, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  12. Curt

    I think its oppressing to say the world needs less people, people only live for 100 years, and so what, you wan't white people to stop breeding and be out numbered more then we already are, and with no young generation?

    I think its better to think with more people. more work can be done, and you can always build into the sky... Barring 9/11 hijackers, or drill into the ground,

    July 15, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      Yo Curt, white people aren't outnumbering anyone. It just depends on where you are. Sure, in america white people outnumber the other races, but if you go to other places like Egypt, or China, its not white majority. Its not that there should be less Whites, but also Blacks, Asians, native Americans(though there aren't much of them compared to other ethnicities) etc....

      July 16, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  13. Curt

    He said to eat the watermelon Hind, But I don't wan't parasites and I'm sure it tastes like cardboard.

    July 15, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  14. BobWhoLikesBeef

    Rectal-Mometer Did you just tell a chick to cut off her ass and then eat it?

    July 15, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  15. BobWhoLikesBeef

    Curt I'm guessing thats a joke man. Cause it won't work.

    July 15, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
    • Curt

      Yeah its a joke I don't think women will be up for that.. but... What if we made clones with genetically modified boobs

      July 15, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      Well first of all. A woman gets pregnant before her breasts can give milk. And we already have too many people as is.......... We need to change our habits. Such as when you eat a watermelon. You know that the skin can be eaten too? Very healthy and taste fine.

      July 15, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
      • Curt

        Ill leaving eating bugs for the people that wan't to do it... Try to avoid it as much as I can although I know its used as coloring and unless you have a list of every chemical your not going to realize it before you purchase something.

        July 15, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  16. BobWhoLikesBeef

    Mmmm wouldn't you want a McDonald's MosquitoMeal?

    July 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm |
  17. Curt

    Ever think about drinking a girl's breast milk for the food shortage ? Maybe label the bottles for the different girls it came from with a picture hahah.

    July 15, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
    • Curt

      That's a story CNN should cover, could have a bunch of woman with bigs cans in the background.

      July 15, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  18. Curt

    The rest of us eat insects unintentionally. He pointed out that, in the United States, for example, a fair amount of insect content is legally allowed in food. Chocolate can have 60 insect components per 100 grams; peanut butter can have 30 insect parts for every 100 grams; fruit juice can have five fruitfly eggs and 1 to 2 larvae for every 250 milliliters.

    Thanks I don't think I'll have chocolate and think twice about the fruit drink ....

    July 15, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
    • Curt

      its topic's like this that create Bulimia...

      Really U.S. should have stricter standards but corporate america don't care, its about fast money.

      July 15, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
  19. Veggie

    interesting debate...!

    To summarize:

    We human kind need to...

    1. control over population in a better way
    2. Can eat insects if their originality is changed (spice it up)

    then..
    stop owning pets...in US alone we have 77.5 million dogs and 99.3 million cats...when people think over-population is the main cause for food shortage..then why the hell we breed those many pet animals that will make food shortage even worse

    – my 2 cents

    July 15, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  20. Queeny

    Hey, what happened to plants? can't I eat those instead? I'm perfectly happy to become a vegetarian when the apocolypse arrives. hee hee

    July 15, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  21. jesse dez

    is there any kind of SAUCE go with the bugs ! ?

    July 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  22. Natalie Rosen

    They are NOT kosher! I could not even look at the picture attached to the story. In biology class when it came to insects I had to cover up the page. Couldn't do it, wouldn't do it and would rather starve than do that!! YUK double YUK

    July 15, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  23. stevenabb500

    They should make Dog Food out of insects. It's rediculous that we are raising Chicken, Lambs, Beef for dogs. If we can harvest meat at 9x better than beef, do we really need to sell $1.50 cans of Pedigree to make our pet dogs happy? Dogs have the brain size of a walnut happy? As for the owners that pay $1.50 a can for Pedigree um... I will be diplomatic and stop :)

    July 15, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
    • Griff

      great point !!

      July 15, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  24. MDennis

    There are an estimated 1,462 species of recorded edible insects including arachnids. Eating bugs is not only environmentally and economically beneficial but also nutritionally. It can best be understood with a comparative breakdown of cricket to beef. 100 grams of cricket contains 121 calories, 12.9 grams of protein, 5.5 g. fat, 5.1 g. carbohydrates, 75.8 mg. calcium, 9.5 mg. iron, 3.10 mg. niacin, 1.09 mg. riboflavin, 185.3 mg. phosphorous, and 0.36 mg. thiamine. By comparison ground beef contains more protein (23.5 g./100g.), but also has 288.2 calories, almost three times the amount of crickets, and a whopping 21.2 grams of fat, almost four times the amount of crickets! There is no doubt we will need to eat other food sources in order to survive. For more information visit http://www.insectsarefood.com/index.php

    July 15, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
    • Griff

      IdiotDennis, there is more to food that nutritional value, things like TASTE !
      think about it, please

      July 15, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
      • agradax

        Hi Griff,
        Try French cooking for these .... they can make anything taste good

        July 15, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
      • Svankensen

        Ive actually eaten bugs and they taste pretty good. I tried grilled tree larva and it wasnt too different from chicken skin. Larvas have too much fat tho, so i recommend grasshoppers!

        May 23, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • agradax

      Nicely done. In my research in the western Amazon, there are 3.2 x 10 (to the 10th power) insects and their realtives per hectare. There are 17 billion hectares in the Amazon Basin, do math! That is al lot of food on the hoof. Keep the forests, harvest the protein!

      July 15, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
    • Queeny

      Okay, I'll bite. Dennis, what is your daily bug intake?

      July 15, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  25. aa

    Well I very much enjoyed reading all of the comments and posts so far.
    Made me quite hungry
    I love shrimp, lobster and crab, so I suspect I will like many different kinds of insects
    I think I will do a little research and find out what tasty insects are growing in my back yard.
    Seems like a great way to add diversity to my diet.
    I enjoy being an omnivore.
    I wonder how representative the comments here are of the human population in general.
    If it is, it’s quite scary.
    A few brief gems of insight and understanding amongst a lot of ignorance, reminds me of Jay Leno's man on the street scenes.
    A few comments of my own:
    I am a US citizen and I speak English.
    America is a set of continents North/Central/South not a county or language.
    There is a country in North America called the United States of America
    I pledge allegiance to the UNITED STATES of AMERICA
    Columbians, Mexicans, Panamanians and Canadians are all Americans
    Humans are not the only conscious entities on the planet earth.
    I can not speak for non mammals, but I strongly believe to the point of "knowing" that mammals like Whales, Seals, Dolphins, Cats, Dogs, Horses, etc are conscious entities.
    I feel like the planet is over-populated, but this maybe just because I live in between Philly and New York.
    I suspect that humans taste like pork not chicken, why? A chicken is a bird, a pig is a mammal and is said to be very much like a human from a physiological point of view.
    Being a simple animal, I believe when stressed that I would eat anything to survive and procreate like rabbits.
    I am not stressed, so I enjoy eating what I enjoy and having multiple serial monogamous sexual partners without adding more hungry resource depleting humans to the planet.
    It bothers me when humans choose to have more children than two per family, but that is my feeling and I have no right in imposing my feelings on others.
    I am very grateful for what I have and enjoy and I am trying to reduce, recycle and reuse.
    I believe that regardless of whether or not we change to a more sustainable way of life, that the complex interrelated systems on the earth (Gaia) will self correct in the long term, it may be that we are just not part of the long term system.
    I wish that we would expand into the solar system, so that the human species existence was not dependant on the success of the least common denominator, i.e. the mob decision process.
    I wish us all luck!

    July 15, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  26. marc gunn

    With more food means even more population which will conclude with more starving. So now with insects we will have 15 billion people on the planet instead of 7. Great.

    July 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm |
  27. lwba

    Like the article says, I am sure that we ALREADY eat plenty of bugs in the products that we buy. If for some reason that number should increase, I would be okay with it, as long as I did not know about it. Finally a good reason for the existance of roaches and mosquites.

    July 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  28. TC

    Talking about overpopulation, I wish TLC, etc. would stop showing stupid shows like "19 Kids and Counting" about American religious kooks who keep reproducing while getting publicity at the same time – ugh!

    July 15, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • Prognosis = People Pushing

      they should cut off mr. duggar's penis and plug her vagina with play-doh

      July 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  29. Brad

    I've always thought of Lobster as "sea roaches." UGLY as all hell. I do eat the buggers.

    July 15, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  30. Shep

    As an entomologist, it occurs to me that if people knew more about insects they eat them more readily. They're quite good! Really!

    July 15, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • ShannonInCT

      Know any good bug restaurants?

      July 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  31. Connie Williams

    MacCricket with fries.

    July 15, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  32. Loriel

    Well Rectal; (don't think I've ever called anyone that before), I am not sure I could reach my butt and I was obviously just being tongue and cheek about my arm. And yes; since I weigh about 750 pounds, I could feast off of my own body for a very long time providing I was able to stop the bleeding along the way. Hey; that might make an interesting movie. You know us Americans; fat, stupid and always looking to make a buck from a bad movie idea. Wow. And for the record, I am not even slightly overweight. Hard to believe me being an American and all.

    July 15, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  33. Pink Pander

    what does human pee-pee tast like anybody??

    July 15, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  34. Rectal-Mometer

    and Loriel just how would you eat the flesh off your own arm?? just bite a chunk raw?? you probably should chomp on a more *unnecessary* portion of your carcass, like YOUR BUTT!!! probably lotsa fat and excess flesh THERE if you're like most Americans–flabby and obese!! LOL

    July 15, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • Hannah

      Why are you picking on her...she didn't do anything wrong..She is just stating her opinion.

      July 15, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
    • Queeny

      It's a figure of speech. New to English?

      July 15, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      Did you just tell a chick to cut off her ass and then eat it?

      July 15, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
  35. Loriel

    Well; the picture of the assorted scorpions on sticks don't do anything to "open my mind" to the eating of insects. However; until any of us are actually starving to death, you have no idea what you would eat. People have eaten dirt and human waste in desperation so I am sure most of us would eat an insect if faced with the same thing. Until that time, I think I would eat the flesh off of my own arm first.

    July 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      Because your worth it.

      July 15, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  36. Flanders-Gay

    are there "gay bugs" ?? or are they the ones that fly into the lights? haha

    July 15, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  37. Anth

    Maladjusted ..

    July 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  38. DaveR

    Scorpion = Land Lobster: count the legs

    July 15, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  39. Em

    Didn't the human species evolve so we don't have to eat things that actively seek out poop?

    July 15, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • Tom

      Em,
      Have we really evolved, or merely adapted?

      July 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
      • ShannonInCT

        We've evolved from our common ancestor with chimpanzees. Other great apes have longer digestive tracts, more jaw muscles, and larger molars for eating and digesting tougher jungle vegetation. Humans have evolved for eating the wide variety of meats, fruits, veggies, roots, nuts, etc available across multiple terrains in Eastern Africa (jungle, savanna, coast. mountains). We are generalists.

        July 15, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
    • ShannonInCT

      No, humans evolved to eat things that don't require a lot of time to digest (like wood and tough leaves). One reason we've spread out over most of the globe is that we can eat a wide variety of foods.

      July 15, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
      • Gumbee

        ...including Pee-Pee!! with a few ice cubes....mmmm! like lemonade–just add some brown sugar!

        July 15, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
      • Tom

        I guess that's why I like trail mix so much, it's the inbred attraction to roughage.

        July 15, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
  40. Apeman

    You're not going to live another 40yrs.....don't worry about it...

    July 15, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  41. benton

    A viable solution for feeding the over-crowded masses has already been proposed: soylent green.

    July 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  42. Andrew

    I had uncooked scallops, or oysters, and I must say that they were delicious. The mixture of sweet and salty with a hint of butter, although they were not buttered. Anyway, they are very bug like in there construction and I imagine tasty surprises await us with the land dwelling bugs.

    July 15, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  43. BobWhoLikesBeef

    :o

    July 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  44. BobWhoLikesBeef

    I heard human meat tastes like pig. Makes sense because we are pigs. :O

    July 15, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
    • Tom

      Except for those of us who are chicken ! :)

      July 15, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  45. Brady

    I had my first meal of insects in China in 1994 served as a stir-fry of large grasshoppers. I think our Chinese hosts were trying to test us. My Brit colleague wouldn't touch them and voiced only warnings of our fine fare. I'm afraid I made a bit of a pig of myself. Word arrived back at Houston before me about my cuisine adventures, but it was all positive feedback.

    July 15, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  46. gross

    Lot of Chinese people eat bugs, still I don't see them a lot on fear factor.

    July 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
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