Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bugs Anyone?

As you know, TIME magazine's 10 best ideas for the future fell flat with me. Nothing earth-shaking there except Dr. Jeffrey Sach's contribution regarding the concept of connectivity as the only rational choice for sustaining humanity. After yawning through the magazine's choices, I perused my files and came up with my own candidates. Mind you, these were what I had and certainly do not contain the whole universe of great ideas. But, none-the-less, they suggest to me what the future might hold in 20 years and beyond.

If the population estimates are correct that we will reach many more billions of people by 2050, it is possible that other food sources will have to be discovered--or as I would say uncovered. So, will insects fill the void? David Gracer hopes so.

This American has spent his life exploring the possibility and even hosts bug eating events such as that presented to the New York Gastronauts, which is touted as a club for adventurous eaters. That evening, Mr. Gracer presented a savory dish of giant water bugs that bore a striking resemblance to cock roaches. When he flicked the insect's head off, the connoisseur asked the small audience to "smell the meat." Hmmmm.

Gracer is on a mission and his crusade was highlighted in this month's DISCOVER magazine. As you may or may not know, selected insects are an excellent source of protein and contain little fat. Many are consumed word-wide, particularly in Africa, where it is considered a valuable food source. But, here in the United States, bugs are generally considered a non-starter. Gracer wonders if that attitude can be changed. He has hopes.

Cows, pigs, chickens and even farm-raised fish create a large negative environmental footprint, potentially outweighing their combined contribution. According to the United Nations,
"Livestock production is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. (That's more than what is produced by transportation world-wide.) And the problem is only going to grow with global production of meat reaching 465 million tons by 2050, double the amount produced in 2000."
Because of this worrisome trend, the UN recently hosted a futuristic conference on entomophagy, the eating of insects. Gracer, who attended in anticipation of a bright future for his educational company, revealed:
"Americans have no idea how wasteful large mammals are. If you want to feed lots of people, insects are the best choice in terms of getting the biggest bang for your buck. Insects are nutritious. Although they contain less protein by weight than beef or chicken--100 grams of water bugs or small grasshoppers have about 20 grams of protein, compared with 27 grams in the same amount of lean ground beef--they do have other benefits. For instance, grasshoppers contain just one-third of the fat found in beef, and water bugs offer almost four times as much iron."
This man may be onto something, but so far it's been slow going. My suggestions to accelerate the process? Make it fashionable to eat one of the 1400 insect species consumed globally. Show the stars downing the critters. Their influence has been shown to change many minds, sometimes quickly.

This could be Angelina Jolie's next mission. As a matter of fact, insects could become a bountiful African export where insect commercialization is already a happening thing.
This is particularly profitable when obnoxious bugs are harvested from the landscape and sold. What's more, the future may hold promise for insect farming, which is cheap, requires little space, and creates only a small environmental footprint.

Other ideas? Sell Weight Watchers on the low-fat possibilities. With their clout and large advertising fund, they should be able to figure out a way to get past the "ick factor." How about growing the beasts then drying and powdering them as a protein supplement? After all, we get some of that already in our grain supplies with no ill effects. It's a little known fact that the USDA has a standard for insect parts per pound, although they don't advertise the fact for obvious reasons. Put the flour from your cupboard under a microscope, and you'd be astonished at the little black bug parts that peek out. Hmmmm.

David Gracer has been having some success in his far-reaching endeavors. His company Sunrise Land Shrimp, referring to crickets, has raised the awareness of scores of Americans who would not have considered bugs an acceptable food source. We may have to get over our squirminess. The UN reported that 854 million people went hungry in 2003. Based on this fact, it might behoove us to broaden our food choices beyond the current fare into insects--who knows, we might acquire a taste for the little beasties like David Gracer has done.

Bugs anyone? Sure, why not, can I have a little ketchup on mine?

TO BE CONTINUED with my other top 10 ideas for the future--

Of Note: Don't know if bees would be on the menu, probably not. After all, they are responsible for a third of all food consumed in one way or another and are being wiped out by a mysterious virus. But, Marie's lovely photo of spring bees was the only insect picture available. So, we'll have to close our eyes and just pretend. Hmmm.

Today's Weather Report: The sun peeked out about 4:00 pm. What a glorious sight! At least 12 inches of snow blankets the once-warming ground, but at 60 degrees later in the week, it's life expectancy is short.

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