Why I ate a scorpion

Can bugs feed the world? Entomophagy for sustainability.

Yep, that’s me taking a bite of a scorpion snack… bread, cream cheese, a big black arachnid… and I ate everything except the claws. It was … interesting…

en·to·moph·a·gy /ˌen(t)əˈmäfəjē/ noun: the practice of eating insects, especially by people.

Years ago friends in Minneapolis experimented with starting a business raising crickets and making them into food. To announce their new endeavor, they hosted a backyard party and asked for three volunteers to eat giant scorpions. Although their focus was crickets, the enormous scorpions were more attention-grabbing and in the same broad category — bugs. One of the enthusiastic entrepreneurs raised scorpions as a hobby. I had been a “pet sitter” when he traveled, feeding live crickets to the scorpions. Never imagined I’d be eating them, though. Have you, or would you, eat a bug?

After munching on the scorpion, it wasn’t a big deal to sample their granola made with cricket flour. It was high in protein and tasted like… you guessed it – granola. It was really amusing to watch children taste the cereal and see their reactions when they were told it was made with bugs! The process in a nutshell involves purchasing crickets, roasting them at high temperatures, and grinding the charred carcases into powder: cricket flour. From there, the granola was made as one would make any other variety. Honestly, if no one told you the ingredients I doubt you could tell whether it was made with rice flour or insect flour.

Although they didn’t pursue the business long-term, I learned a bit about entomophagy from those friends. The reasons eating insects may be a more sustainable solution to feeding the world’s population, rather than livestock, are well documented. I won’t go into detail, as there are plenty of online sources highlighting pros and cons of entomophagy on a greater scale.

Meat has been the main source of protein in rich countries for years and consumption is increasing in middle-income countries… where eating meat is a signifier of wealth. But eating animals exacts a high toll on the planet. The bigger the beast, the more food, land and water is needed to produce the final edible product, resulting in higher greenhouse-gas emissions. A cow takes 8kg of feed to produce 1kg of beef, but only 40% of the cow can be eaten. Crickets require just 1.7kg of food to produce 1kg of meat, and 80% is considered edible. Insects are also high in protein, minerals and micronutrients. 

Source: The Economist

As a person who rarely eats meat and is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle, entomophagy intrigues me. Although I’m not at the point of roasting and grinding my own crickets, writing this article was inspired by researching local sources of insect flour. The most interesting discovery so far is a restaurant near Minneapolis that offers cricket flour milkshakes on its menu. They say the bugs add a nutty flavor. If I get there, a blog story will follow… Would you taste an insect milkshake?