What Kind of Food?
Recently I journeyed to the great Southwest. My hiking partner, desperate to reach Bryce National Park, woke at 3 AM after scant sleep, scurried to the airport, “enjoyed” the flight experience to Las Vegas, then sped the rental car north before encountering a massive migraine (don’t lots of vacations start this way?) Arguing that iced tea was not breakfast and that food, liquid, and rest deprivation were not fixing the problem, I enjoined her to stop in St. George, Utah – and eat.
“Burger King”, she said. She would not be denied. No other food source, none, was acceptable.
Though I had not visited such a fast food emporium in decades, I acquiesced. My chicken sandwich looked and tasted industrial, with a fine, lacy artificial aftertaste.
Now we read that the UN is advocating humans utilize insects as a major food source to feed the 9 billion of us expected on the planet – rather soon. The special report did not harp overlong that global climate change already seems to cause decreasing global crop yields.
So in the face off, who will you choose: Burger King or the insects?
Let’s take out the bugs and see:
Fast Food Chicken Sandwich
Chicken – reared on chicken meal that includes prozac (calms the birds), arsenic (plumps the flesh), growth and reproductive hormones, caffeine, and genetically modified cereals (GMOs). As a lagniappe, loads of antibiotic appetizers that should create more and more antibiotic resistant bacteria to infect humans and cause potential future epidemics.
Bun- GMO wheat plus multiple preservatives
Flavorings – salt, salt, sugar, sugar, fat congealers, and multiple petrochemicals
Taste – enjoyed by some
The Insect Course
Crickets – reared on human and animal detritus, water and sunlight. Average production – two pounds of eating material (mostly waste) for one pound of cricket. Recall that one pound of beef generally requires eight pounds of cereal – one reason monoculture corn production is so popular in America.
Preservatives, petrochemicals, antibiotics, arsenic – none
Quality of food – high levels of protein, vitamins and rare metals
Taste – popular in Latin America and Africa. Novelty item in Europe. Not yet aggressively sold in the US.
Alternative use – ground into protein powders (bodybuilders, take note) and as meal for standard food animals like chicken and cows.
Add It Up
Crickets produce a high protein, high quality organic food. They breed immensely quickly – like locusts, in fact. They can be fed human and animal waste that otherwise requires expensive sanitation. Their texture is crunchy, and by the tastes of aficionados, their taste subtle and multi-layered (according to the UN, Emperor Hirohito was partial to rice with crunchy wasps.)
Compare this with the fast food chicken sandwich – an interlaced post-industrial miracle of antibiotics, hormones, preservatives, salt licks, high fructose corn syrup, antidepressants and arsenic. The taste, welcome to many, aids their overuse in meals, adding to the obesity/diabetes/overweight epidemic which kills tens of millions Americans early while bankrupting the overwrought medical care system that tries to treat them (which in turn helps bankrupt the American government while filling capital markets with debt.)
From the standpoint of individual, ecological and planetary health, it’s no contest. Crickets win hands down over chicken.
So why aren’t we eating more of them?
A New Marketing Competition
American corporations have consistently demonstrated that they can sell almost anything – cigarettes, bomb shelters, absurdly expensive handbags, pet rocks, tasteless television programs, even disgraced politicians like Andrew Weiner and Mark Sanford.
It’s time to create another competition: the great insect fest.
Competitors will be asked to convince that public that eating crickets and other insects is salubrious, public spirited, cost effective, ecologically sensitive, culinarily adventurous, waste loss positive, global climate change negative, deliriously nutritious, fun to eat, and a direct aid to American foreign policy. The winner can then be asked to create a campaign for large multinationals – Pepsico comes immediately to mind – to introduce “humane” production of insects for healthy snacks and family fare.
The ick factor will be carefully subsumed, buried into the background.
And what happens if our marketers and advertising mavens fail? Crickets will continue to sing and fly among the bulrushes – and await their chance to become food for larger mammals.
The pig plants of North Carolina may never be the same.