Edible insects pack a protein punch for the adventurous eater

edible insect dish
cooked bee larvae dish

Although the United States has been slower to pick on up the worldwide trend of eating a wide variety of insects, a recent study reveals that the nutritional value and environmental benefits of eating bugs should far outweigh our squeamishness about consuming the creepy crawly critters.

Crickets and ants are the most common insect cuisine in the United States, and they are a good, healthy way to venture into the insect-eating unknown. A recent Oxford University study showed that crickets contain more protein, energy, calcium and vitamins than an equal amount by weight of chicken, steak and other meats.

According to the Oxford study, crickets, palm weevils, honeybees and larvae contained significantly more vitamins and minerals than other common protein sources, especially chicken and beef. In addition, insect raising saves time, money and much of the environmental impact associated with raising livestock.

A study showed that at least 1.3 billion tons of grain per year goes to feed livestock and produce the meat we eat, while insects mature quickly and require remarkably little care and upkeep.

Around the world, insects such as ants and locusts are also considered crave-worthy, as well as crickets. Insect-based edibles like cricket flour, cricket protein powder and cricket bars are starting to creep into recipes in the United States.

Other insects commonly consumed around the world include agave worms and bamboo worms, bees, centipedes, cicadas, cockroaches, dragonflies, dung beetles (admittedly, probably one most of us may think twice about), grasshoppers, hornworms, june bugs, lice, sago grubs, silkworms, scorpions, tarantulas, termites, wasps, water bugs and waxworms.

It’s a good bet that more than a few of those critters sound all-too-familiar. All shudders aside, these insects we consider pests could be an answer to food source dilemmas in the future. It certainly couldn’t hurt to be a little adventurous, have a little fun and begin getting a taste for them now.

So, where are edible insects for sale? The answer is almost everywhere, especially in the United States, Europe and Thailand, and in more places than you think.

Not only do specialty food stores around the world sell a variety of edible insects, it’s a good bet you can find any insect you’d like to try on your favorite online retailer or auction site. Even candy and novelty stores have picked up on the edible insect craze with insects encased in lollipops and hard candy and chocolate-covered-critters galore.

Also, you can often find edible insects for sale through specialty websites that offer a variety of novelty or unusual foods and candies such as thailandunique.com

With just a little online research or a trip to the local farmers’ market, you can also find out which farms in your area may raise edible insects and sell them at markets or farm stores. Even if the local farmers don’t raise and sell insects themselves, they probably know which ones do. Once you have the farm names, give them a call and find out what sort of inventory they have and whether they will ship orders to individual consumers.