Eating insects doesn't bug some students

April 25, 2014

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Pictured (left-right) are Chelsea Barnaby, Allison Wells and Meleana Bennin.

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement program is funding a class project on entomophagy, the consumption of insects as a food source. The class will be working with Driftless Market in Platteville to promote insect products. All of their findings and samples were presented at the PACCE Poster Day on April 23.

Students were inspired to start this project based on an instructional TED Talk video where Marcel Dicke, a professor and scientist from the Netherlands, talks about entomophagy and its prevalence and importance. According to Dicke, 80 percent of the world participates in this accepted practice. The United States is one of the countries that does not incorporate insects into its daily diet.

Dr. Rebecca Doyle-Morin, professor of biology, who is overseeing this project, says she is proud of her students for taking the initiative to educate others about entomophagy. Students gave away protein bars made of crickets and other insects at an open house at Driftless Market on Saturday, April 12. Bars were also distributed on the UW-Platteville campus.

Why insects? “Insects provide a great source of protein, on par with red meat,” said Doyle-Morin. “They are low in fat and high in iron, omegas 3 and 6, vitamin B12 and other important micronutrients, which makes it much healthier than red meat. Their environmental impact is very small compared to meat products as well.”

What does this mean for the United States? “China and India have begun to eat much more meat than ever before,” said Doyle-Morin. “This means that the world’s meat production will begin to lag behind demand, and eventually, become an inadequate source of food. Eventually, there will not be enough meat to go around, which brings us back to insects.”

Raising insects costs much less than raising cattle, pigs and sheep and can provide opportunities for all background in both urban and rural settings. It also requires less space and resources, while producing a minimal amount of waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions relative to livestock like cattle and sheep.

Engineers in Europe are working on designing buildings for urban areas that could raise insects inside the walls. This would provide the company’s own store of food, that could be harvested as needed.  

Many people may turn their noses up at the idea of eating bugs, but people eat lobster and shrimp as delicacies, which are in the same biological family as insects, making them very close relatives. People also don’t realize how many insects they are already regularly eating in products like canned tomatoes and applesauce.

The movement is starting to take off in the United States. Many high-end restaurants in New York, N.Y., Chicago, Ill., and California have begun organizing entomophagy nights where customers pay hundreds of dollars to eat insects. Mark Cuban even picked up an insect-based protein bar on the hit television show, Shark Tank.

One of Doyle-Morin’s students shared that members of her family eat bugs as a regular part of their diet and often have those types of dishes at family gatherings. “One day we may all choose to adopt this practice in order to get the protein we need,” said Doyle-Morin.

Contact: Dr. Rebecca Doyle-Morin, biology, (608) 342-6156, doylemorinr@uwplatt.edu
Written by: Megan Schmidt, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, schmidtme@uwplatt.edu

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