WORMS FOR LUNCH – Mealworms as an alternative protein? Well why not? Unless you are squeamish, and have a vivid imagination you may not even realize what you are eating if you are not told. After all, how many people question whether or not the fast-food hamburger they are eating is 100% beef? Until the dawning of famous urban legends, we simply took for granted that we knew what we were putting into our mouths.
Consider McDonald’s which has been a popular and repeated target since 1978. It has been alleged multiple times that McDonald’s will use earthworms, as filler for their burgers. They have also been falsely accused of using cow eyes and genetically engineered mutant laboratory meat, with none of these charges being proven.
Taco Bell, another popular food chain, has also suffered from false allegations. Theirs are just as creative including roaches being mixed into the meat along with the possibility that if the roach would drop an egg in your mouth or anywhere in your digestive tract you will need surgery immediately. Not to be outdone, the fried chicken restaurants have also been accused of serving fried mice, rats, and the occasional chicken head or feet.
In a world where the majority of people eat food prepared by others and then gulp it down as fast as humanly possible, is it any wonder that these urban legends pop up every few years? But, let’s get back to the mealworms.
Insects like the mealworm, grasshopper, caterpillars and beetle grubs to name a few have been eaten by the peoples of Africa, Latin America and Asia not as a filler or as an emergency food, but as a staple to their diet. Let’s consider for a moment the availability and incurred cost of insect vs. animal. In any given year, a cow may give birth to 1 calf, a hen can give birth to 270 chickens and a sow can birth on average 9-14 piglets, twice. When you stop to think about it, that’s not very much meat considering how often we include protein in our daily meals.
Looking at insects, we see that the grasshopper can lay enough eggs for 80 grasshoppers in a season, the cockroach will lay 50 eggs a month, with those little ones becoming mature and laying their own eggs within another month, and the mealworm beetle which is actually the adult of the mealworm can lay up to 500 eggs which will hatch in 19 days. Mealworms may be easily raised on fresh oats, whole wheat bran or grain, with sliced potato or carrots and little pieces of apple as a water source.
Insects do not require the same intensive care, space or expense to raise as a live animal does. With an ever growing people population, farmers selling off their land for real estate, and the dangers behind anti-biotics and steroids given to keep the meat production high, shouldn’t we be looking for alternative resources when it comes to protein? Vegetarians will substitute plant protein in lieu of a meat source, but as someone who has eaten a tofurkey, it cannot compare. Beans, seaweed and nuts however are not only healthy alternatives, but are also delicious, easy to prepare and readily available in most areas.
Growing up in the 80′s I was exposed to the “chocolate craze.” You remember, chocolate covered grasshoppers, ants and roaches. I have eaten them all and suffered no ill effects, except when I thought about what I was eating. Insects have been eaten for centuries and when used whole or ground into a powder are a viable food source that has been long neglected by those of us in the western world. How do they taste? Hmm… Like chicken.
To whet your appetite I’ve included some tasty dinner options:
Huhu grubs are a traditional food of New Zealand. It is said they taste like peanut better…or chicken.
How about some deep fried tarantulas?
An insect food stall in Thailand
Would you like a slice of cicada pizza?
And let’s not forget dessert………..
A true honeysickle
Grubs are not just for burgers…or maybe you are more the cookie type.
There is a wide variety of insect recipes, some using the whole insect, while others grind them into a flour that can also be used for baking or as a thickening agent for soups. No matter how you look at it, insects are abundant and will be appearing on your menu soon.