No—“I’ll never eat any animals,” his vegan purist panelist replies. “We really don’t know yet if grasshoppers can feel pain.”
No—“I’m not touching anything made from bugs,” his “mainstream” vegetarian panelist replies. “No way, no how. It’s disgusting.”
Pakman then goes on to tout the offerings of a Dutch manufacturer, which offers such “treats” as chocolate-covered mealworms, the larvae of darkling beetles, along with roasted crickets and other culinary delights. The “raw materials” for these products are all farm-raised, of course, and that’s where the “better for the environment” argument comes in. Allegedly, insects are as much as two times more efficient at feed-to-protein conversion then pigs; five times as efficient as cattle.
That sounds suspect, because according to published data, grasshoppers (or locusts, if you prefer the upscale designation) yield only half as much protein—about 14.3 grams per 100-gram serving—as beef, which yields about 29 grams.
Yuck factor aside, there are also production and processing issues to consider if we are to take insects-as-protein-replacements seriously. You think you’d be offended living downwind of a hog farm or feedlot? How’d you like to find out that your rural neighbors are cranking up a big-time locust farm? (“Don’t worry; they’ll never escape.”)
There have been sporadic attempts to “showcase” the benefits of insect consumption, of course, but more as a novelty act than as a serious attempt to deal with the 21st century challenge of feeding the world’s burgeoning population. Back in the 1990s, Iowa State famously concocted such recipes as Corn Borer Corn Muffins, Mealworm Fried Rice, Banana Worm Bread and that standby staple, Chocolate-Covered Grasshoppers.
Guess those students never got the memo that grasshoppers, when touted as fine dining, should be styled as “farm-raised locust.”
And I sincerely doubt that many Americans are going to seriously consider responding to the never-ending question, “What’s for dinner?” with anything derived from creatures that we spend summers swatting, spraying or otherwise eliminating.
To paraphrase Animal Farm, “Four legs good; six legs bad.”
Dan Murphy is a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator