Eating Insects in Western Culture

Despite insects being eaten across the globe by at least 2 billion people, eating insects has not gained widespread acceptance in modern Western culture. Still, from ancient Roman elites eating beetle larvae to Nicole Kidman raving about fried grasshoppers, we find examples of eating insects throughout the history of Western culture.


Historical Consumption of Eating Bugs in the West

pliny the elder said romans loved to eat bugs
Pliny the Elder
The history of eating insects goes as far back as our chimpanzee ancestors, on through to our hunter-gather ancestors, and continues from there to the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Native Americans in Western culture.

National Geographic discusses the evidence for these latter examples:

“The ancient Romans and Greeks dined on insects. Pliny, the first-century Roman scholar and author of Historia Naturalis, wrote that Roman aristocrats loved to eat beetle larvae reared on flour and wine.

 

Aristotle, the fourth-century Greek philosopher and scientist, described in his writings the ideal time to harvest cicadas: "The larva of the cicada on attaining full size in the ground becomes a nymph; then it tastes best, before the husk is broken. At first the males are better to eat, but after copulation the females, which are then full of white eggs."

 

The Old Testament encouraged Christians and Jews to consume locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers. St. John the Baptist is said to have survived on locusts and honey when he lived in the desert.

In the mid-19th century Maj. Howard Egan, a superintendent of the Pony Express in Nevada, observed a Paiute Indian hunt where the quarry was neither bison nor rabbit, but rather the wingless Mormon cricket.” 

 

The story doesn't end with the ancients and Native Americans.

 

Edible Insects and Hollywood 

Nicole Kidman's secret talent is eating insectsNicole Kidman demonstrates her love of eating insects

It's not just ancient history that provides examples of entomophagy in Western culture. This Vogue piece explores Nicole Kidman's "special" talent, eating insects.

Interestingly, she refers to them as "micro-livestock" which is exactly what they are, except they convert feed much more efficiently than traditional livestock, use less land and water, and emit less greenhouse gases.

On eating fried grasshoppers, Kidman boasts, “These are amazing. These are exquisite. Grasshoppers, I recommend them to anyone.”

 

Snowpiercer eating bug protein bars
Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer eating a bug bar

Of course, not all accounts of eating insects by Hollywood are presented with the same enthusiasm as Nicole Kidman's endorsement. Take the movie Snowpiercer for example. In it, survivors of Earth's second Ice Age live on a luxury train that ploughs perpetually through snow and ice. The poorest residents of the train live in squalor and are fed bars made with a mystery ingredient which they find out to be bugs.

In one scene, the poorer class on the train offer Tilda Swinton's character, one of the characters from the train's upper class, to try one of these bug protein bars. Let's just say, the scene isn't selling anyone on the appeal!

 

Robert Downey Jr. funded insect farming
Robert Downey Jr. bets big on insect farming

While some actors are pretending to eat bugs in a dystopian future, other actors are making big bets on bugs in real life.

Robert Downey Jr., aka Iron Man, founded an investment group, The Footprint Coalition, that is committed to using advanced technologies for the good of the environment. Recently, Footprint Coalition joined additional investors in funding a $372M Series C round for Ynsect, a French insect farming startup with ambitions of expanding operations to North America and Asia.


Late Night Bug Chef

James Cordon and The Bug ChefThe Late Late Show with James Corden and The Bug Chef


Chef's are getting in on the action as well. The Bug Chef (a.k.a. David George Gordon) is cooking with insects and teaching others how to do the same with his The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook.

You can see some of his creations in this clip of him on The Late Late Show With James Cordon. 

See what ants on a log really look like!


Professional Athlete Goes Ento-vegan

Jabar Westerman is a football player who eats insectsJabar Westerman is the football player who eats bugs for dinner


It's not just celebrities and chef's that are experimenting with insects. Increasingly, athletes are turning to insect protein as a sustainable and humane source of animal protein.

Jabar Westerman is a professional football player who practices what some call ento-veganism. Ento-vegans eat a plant-based diet and add in insect-based foods as well.

Vice followed Westerman around in this mini-documentary where he cooks a homemade dish of caterpillar meatballs for a teammate.

 

Edible Arthropods Already On The Table

Shrimp lobster and insects are all arthropods and edible
Shrimp and lobster are a few of the arthropods we eat
When entomophagy is brought up in the West, some people are shocked or disgusted. The same people may not bat an eye at the shrimp, lobster, or crab served at their favorite seafood restaurant.

Like insects, shrimp, lobsters, and crabs are all arthropods. Arthropods are invertebrate creatures having an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages.

Westerners are already eating the insects of the sea! Why not eat their cousins?

 

Cricket Protein Bars, An Easy Entry Point

Bug Out Bar uses cricket protein powder, honey, and plant-based ingredients

 

At Bug Out Bar, we're working to build acceptance of insects as a healthy and sustainable food source in the US. We're building upon what other cultures already accept as food, as well as the history and intrigue surrounding entomophagy in the West.

We think we've made one of the easiest entry points for American consumers to try insect protein, our chocolate brownie protein bar made with crickets.

We use cricket protein powder, honey, and plant-based ingredients to create a decadent protein bar with balanced macronutrients and a low environmental impact.

If you're ready to see what all the fuss is about...

Try a box risk-free today!