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Is Eating Bugs Good for Us?


English Matters - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 6/2019 vom 27.09.2019

Eating bugs offers many benefits for both people and our planet, as insects are high in protein, low in cost, eco-friendly and tasty. So, why aren’t we eating more of them?


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Bildquelle: English Matters, Ausgabe 6/2019

bug | Käfer

Insects as food are popular in many parts of the world, and eaten by about two billion people. In Europe, insects were consumed in antiquity, but since the Middle Ages they have disappeared from our menu. Will they make a comeback in the 21st century? It seems quite possible. The European Union wants to promote eating bugs among its citizens, as an ideal alternative to meat. Of course, we already eat insects, ...

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... unintentionally, possibly as much as one kilo per year while sleeping or eating processed food, such as bread, jams or beer.

Edible Insects

Some 2,100 insect species worldwide have been identified as edible, from leafhoppers and water boatmen, to stink bugs and agave worms. However, one should avoid eating brightly coloured, hairy or prickly insects, and most caterpillars as they may be poisonous, ‘Red, orange or yellow – forget this fellow. Black, green or brown wolf it down.’

For many people, eating bugs is a part of their standard diet. In Kenya, termites are eaten live or dry-roasted. Amazon weevil grubs are charred over an open flame. Shaken from mango trees in Thailand, red weaver ant larvae are popped in the mouth like tiny water balloons.

Insects Are Healthy

Bugs are nature’s perfect food, as they’re high in protein, with all of the essential amino acids, and have as much calcium as milk, and as much iron as spinach. They are very nutritious and low in carbohydrates. According to enthusiasts of ‘insect cooking,’ entomophagy (eating bugs) is very healthy. Crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms contain more copper, zinc, magnesium and calcium than beef! [Box]

Save the Environment and Fight Global Warming

Bugs are plentiful and can be raised just about anywhere, using less water, land and feed than traditional livestock. Families can raise insects cheaply using table scraps and weeds from their garden. In Asia, many people harvest them from the wild.

Farming large animals generates a lot of greenhouse gases, and it takes thousands of litres of water to produce a single kilo of meat. Its production is a major cause of global warming, so adding insects to diets worldwide will help fight this, by reducing the need for conventional meat. In addition, creepy-crawlies reproduce and grow very quickly – which is a blessing, once we realise that they could save us from starving when the world’s population hits 9.7 billion in 2050.

Some 2,100 insect species worldwide have been identified as edible.


Dishes and Products Made with Insects

In Asia, crickets, roaches and worms are sold by the roadside, as well as in elegant restaurants. Cinemas in South America serve roasted ants instead of popcorn. In the USA, some New York chefs are creating insect recipes, and packaged edible bugs can be delivered to your door.

Insects offer a whole new culinary experience. Many people are surprised by how good insects taste, and that they come in such a variety of flavours. Crickets have a ‘nutty’ flavour while grasshoppers taste smoky, and edible caterpillars taste like chicken.

antiquity ænˈtɪkwəti| Altertum, Antike
menu ˈmenjuː| Menü, Speisekarte
to seem | scheinen
unintentionally ˌʌnɪnˈtenʃənəli| unabsichtlich, ungewollt
processed | verarbeitet
edible | essbar
species | Spezies, Gattung
leafhopper | Grashüpfer
water boatman | Ruderwanze
stink bug | Stinkwanze, Stinkkäfer
agave worm | Agavenwurm, Sagowurm
prickly | stachelig
caterpillar | Raupe
poisonous ˈpɔɪzənəs| giftig
to wolf sth down | etw. herunterschlingen
termite ˈtɜːmaɪt / ˈtɜːrmaɪt| Termite
weevil grub | Raupe eines Käfers
charred | angekohlt, angegrillt
red weaver ant | rote Asiatische Weberameise
larva ˈlɑːvə / ˈlɑːrvə| Larve
acid ˈæsɪd| Säure
iron ˈaɪən / ˈaɪərn| Eisen
spinach ˈspɪnɪtʃ| Spinat
nutritious | nahrhaft, nährstoffreich
carbohydrate | Kohlenhydrat
according to sb | laut jdm.
cricket | Grille
copper | Kupfer
livestock | Nutztiere, Vieh
table scraps | Tischabfälle
weeds | Unkraut
to harvest sth | etw. ernten
greenhouse gas | Treibhausgas
creepy-crawly | Krabbeltier
to starve | verhungern
roach | Kakerlake
instead of sth | anstatt etw.
to come in | daherkommen
nutty | nussig
smoky | rauchig

So, it is not surprising that the hardest thing about eating insects is to eat … your first one. After that, you’ll find it easier to accept (sushi was also seen as ‘yucky’ when introduced in some European countries). Bugs are quite easy to eat, and that is why many people like them as snacks. What takes some getting used to is eating whole crickets and grasshoppers – because of the crunch.

Apparently, it is best to start with crickets in powder form and then proceed to eating the whole bugs. In a 2017 interview, Angelina Jolie can be seen with her children cooking and eating a tarantula and some bugs in Cambodia, a moment celebrated by bug-eating enthusiasts.

‘If once I’d been told, I’d be eating bugs, I would have screamed,’ says Joy Nemerson, insect-eating enthusiast from the USA. Now, she tries to cook with bugs twice a week, including her favourite recipe – a three-layer pizza with cricket powder in the dough and red sauce with mealworms on top. ‘Once you get into it, it’s pretty easy and makes a lot of sense. If you believe we came from monkeys, monkeys eat a lot of bugs.’

For those considering embarking on their culinary adventure of eating bugs, there are books and guides on the market that show which insects are edible, which taste best and how to cook them. David George Gordon, author of the cookbook ‘Eat-a-Bug,’ recommends people start with a grilled grasshopper. The recipe is simple: 5cm long insects should be impaled with vegetables on skewers, drizzled with olive oil, lemon, honey, and mustard and barbecued. Cicadas taste best fried in butter, together with garlic and soy sauce.

Eating Insects in Germany

The question is: do people in Germany want to eat worms? Or, when seeing a bug, would they rather kill it than eat it? Even though many Germans have already heard about edible insects, only 10% of them can imagine themselves eating bugs on a regular basis in the future. But things are changing fast.

Recently shoppers at the Rewe supermarket chain in Aachen have stepped out of their comfort zone and decided to sample insect burgers made from highly nutritious mealworms and served in rolls with lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. After tasting the burger, one customer observed, ‘It is a good alternative to meat and although I had reservations at first, I got a second serving because it tasted so good.’

Baris Özel, the co-founder of the Bugfoundation start-up that makes the burgers, spent four years working on the concept, after travelling in Asia with his business partner Max Krämer. Baris observes, ‘It’s quite simple. You have to create an aesthetic product that looks good and doesn’t show any insects.’ His view has been confirmed by recent research which suggested that the introduction of insects as a food source in Western societies seems more likely to succeed if insects are incorporated into familiar food items.

Another German company, established by two entrepreneurs Josef Hirte and Mathias Rasch, set up ‘Wicked Cricket,’ an online mail order service for people who like to snack on crickets. According to these two businessmen, food should not only taste good, but also appear appetising. The problem is that roasted crickets simply look too unfamiliar and, what makes it even worse, they look exactly like they do when hopping around in the grass. But this is just a small obstacle and people who have actually tasted crickets praise their slightly nutty taste.

So Are You Ready to Eat Bugs?

Now you know that adding insects to your diet is a smart and nutritional step forward. If you have decided to take the plunge, it’s easy! Just add edible crickets to your salads, roasted mealworms to your omelettes and use insect powder in your baking, protein shakes, and other meals. Or try some insect candy! Who can say ‘No’ to chocolate? Do it for your health and your planet.

to get used to sth | sich an etw. gewöhnen
crunch | Knuspern, Knirschen
apparently | anscheinend, offensichtlich
including sth | einschließlich etw.
three-layer | dreilagig, dreischichtig
dough dəʊ / doʊ| Teig
to embark on sth | sich auf etw. einlassen, etw. beginnen
impaled | aufgespießt
skewer | Spieß
drizzled with sth | mit etw. besprenkelt, besprüht
to take the plunge | den Sprung wagen, es wagen

Nutritional properties of insects

Nutritional properties vary according to the insect, their diet and environmental factors. A typical 100 g serving of freeze-dried crickets contains:
• Calories: 458 kcal
• Fat: 18.5 g
• Protein: 69.1 g
• Carbohydrates: <0.5 g

Additionally insects contain:
• High levels of vitamin B12, phosphorous, calcium and trace minerals – iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium
• Substantial levels of macrominerals – magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride
• Omega 3 and Omega 6
• All of the 9 essential amino acids required for human health, making them a complete protein