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Popular in parts of the world, edible insects crawl into US

Despite a cultural aversion in the United States, the accessibility to edible insects is growing for people willing to give it a try.

DALLAS — Though it may “bug” many to think about, the most efficient animal-based food on earth are insects. And despite a cultural aversion in the United States, the accessibility to edible insects is growing for people willing to give it a try.

“I like viewing insects as Mother Nature’s base animal food,” said Dr. Julie Lesnik, the author of the book Edible Insects and Human Evolution.

As an anthropology professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, Lesnik researched how our ancestors lived, ate and sustained 2.5 million years ago. But even today, insects are an important part of the human diet in many countries around the globe.

“There are billions of people who eat insects in the world today,” Lesnik said. “There have always been people who have known we are really silly for overlooking how good a resource this is.”

The reluctance to eat an insect has a lot to do with a conditioned perspective from an early age that insects are “gross” or “dirty,” yet Lesnik maintains insects are one of the cleanest forms of animal protein and the association with filth is actually filth created by humans.

And though the idea of incorporating insects into our regular diet has gained a lot of steam in the United States over the last decade, some were way ahead of the curve.

A 1976 WFAA story archived in the SMU Jones Film Collection interviewed a North Texas State University Entomology professor who had cooked insects to eat himself for nearly 20 years and spent the day doing the same for curious students in his class.

The story pondered the possibility that future generations could drool at the possibility of endless menu options made possible by thousands of species on insects.

Nearly 50 years later, progress is being made thanks to organizations like the North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture and several insect products on the market.

“For the most part, I order any insects I eat online,” said Lesnick. 

Even though access to whole insects is still somewhat limited in the US, many are consuming edible insects with powders.

“Cricket powder is just whole crickets grounded up into a powder. You can put it in smoothies. In baked goods, you can substitute some amount of your white flour with cricket powder.”

Lesnick said crickets and mealworms are whole insects currently being farmed for consumption in the United States. An online search shows many pre-packaged insects and powders available for purchase.

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