The United Nations says we should eat more bugs.
They’re cheap, nutritious and easy on the environment to raise, it says in a report released recently. In many parts of the world, the report notes, they have long been important food sources.
I’m not expecting Americans to rush to the supermarket for dragonfly larvae anytime soon. But the report made me wonder what would happen if this country did embrace bug-eating.
It’s actually easy to predict, extrapolating from food trends:
We would definitely have food trucks selling cricket fritters. The trucks, with playful names such as the Chirp Mobile, would be staffed by hipsters with the latest trendy body art: surgically implanted antennae.
Corporations would jump in, raising tiny livestock on insect megafarms. They would spend lavishly to advertise their heavily processed snack-food lines, including beetle chips (Beet-Os) and precisely uniform caterpillars in a can (Pringle-pillars).
Marketers would devise slick campaigns aimed at overcoming consumer resistance to certain species. Just as the prune people renamed their product “dried plums,” the bug people would give cicadas an image makeover, breeding the red out of their eyes and renaming them “tree lobsters.”
Also, the stink bug (a delicacy in Laos) would be renamed the “aromatic land prawn.”
As for the dung beetle, well, some causes are hopeless.
A politically powerful industry group, the National Insect Association, would spring up, making hefty campaign contributions in a push to have the government establish a recommended daily allowance of mealworms. It would work.
Then, the inevitable backlash would develop.
Animal-rights groups would expose inhumane conditions on insect farms, where caged grasshoppers would never know the joy of grass-hopping. Secretly recorded video would show termites being force-fed 2-by-4s to fatten them for slaughter.
Soon, organic and locally grown would become buzzwords in the edible-insect world as some consumers react to corporate food.
Farmers markets would overflow with free-range locusts, untainted by antibiotics and harvested fresh from the fields they had just finished plaguing.
Independent restaurants would make their names selling artisanal weevils and locally sourced ants. Some would change their menus daily, depending on which insects fly through holes in screen doors.
Celebrity chefs would become known for dishes such as wing and sting (chicken stuffed with wasp larvae), shish-ke-beetle, tarantu-loaf.
As resistance to bug-eating disappears, Americans would add deep-fried insects to the corn dogs, bacon and chocolate cake already in their diets. Hence, they would grow fleshier, and not good for them.
Mosquitoes, though, would be delighted.