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I’ve been thinking about insects. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about eating them (or, so far, not eating them). Meat isn’t usually considered a luxury item in western culture, but prices are predicted to rise substantially in the next decade.

If meat consumption grows concurrently in developing parts of the world, the strain that meat puts on the environment will be significant. It’s pretty much a given that the world needs to learn to enjoy a new source of affordable, environmentally sustainable protein: bugs.

Plenty of countries worldwide are already (and always have been) entomophagous (insect eaters), including countries in Africa, the Americas, and even Europe. According to National Geographic, more than 2 billion people around the globe eat insects regularly.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization released a report in May of 2013 titled “Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security” extolling the many virtues of eating bugs.

Insects aren’t just excellent sources of protein; they also contain fiber, good fats, and essential vitamins and minerals. Bugs are easier to farm, are cultivated much more efficiently, require far less water, and emit fewer greenhouse gasses than any conventional livestock.

But will western countries ever eat insects? Hard to say, but they’re already more common menu inhabitants than you’d think. For example, the new St. Louis-based Mexican restaurant Gringo features a grasshopper taco.

As adventurous foodies expand their palates and seek out unique experiences, perhaps they’ll pave the way for the rest of us. Will they normalize eating insects enough to reach a tipping point for regular folks? Or will insects remain a novelty until the price of regular meat simply gets too high for routine consumption?

I don’t know, but this would definitely change the way I react when I see bugs in my favorite restaurants.

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