Bugs are good to eat — and better for the environment

Scanning my daily list of RSS feeds, I spied an article titled, “Meat producers should replace cattle with insects.” Okay, I’ll bite, what’s this about?

It seems that a bunch of scientists at Wageningen University in the Netherlands (think IBC) put their heads together and discovered that insects are highly efficient in producing “meat.” I put the word meat in quotes because, as you will soon see, these scientists use the word meat differently than you or I might.

The research was originally targeted at identifying ways to reduce greenhouse gases. It seems that cattle and hogs both poop gas and belch, accounting for up to 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Finding ways to reduce those "emissions" would be good for everyone.

I suppose in their quest for the Nobel Prize and the latest scientific discovery, the researchers looked at mealworms, crickets, migratory locusts, sun beetles and Dubia cockroaches. The scientists then measured the amount of methane and nitrous oxide released per kilogram of “insect meat.” They discovered that when measured on a emission-per-weight basis, insects produce fewer gasses than do their warm-blooded cousins, cattle and hogs. For instance, mealworms produce between one-tenth and one-one-hundredth per kilogram of weight of the greenhouse gas emissions than do hogs. Insects also produce lower levels of ammonia.

The scientists said one key reason for the lower emission levels of greenhouse gases per liter of meat was that insects are cold-blooded. Insects use energy to grow, rather than to maintain a warmer body temperature.

This isn’t the first effort in finding new types of meats. NASA has been looking for new food stuffs to feed astronauts for years. The most notable was “in-vitro meat.” This is a product developed from lab-grown tissue. In other words, an astronaut might be able to eat a hamburger that didn’t come from a cow.

Back to insects.

I’m okay with developing new kinds of foodstuffs. And if the result reduces greenhouse gases, so much the better. But if someone asks me if I want a “roach burger” or a mealworm wrap, count me out. There aren’t enough condiments, pickles, onions, lettuce or jalapenos in the world to hide the thought of a bug in my food.

It doesn’t matter what the product might look like. The mere thought of eating bugs and worms makes me want to become vegetarian.