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Buzzworthy: A new blog series on edible insects, agricultural development and food security

Buzzworthy logoHave you heard the buzz about entomophagy, the practice of eating insects? It’s more common than you might think. Two billion people around the world consume insects as a regular part of their diet. Beetle larvae, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, termites and stink bugs are particularly popular as edibles.

Insects are considered delicacies in some communities and provide an important nutritional boost to undernourished people in others. Rearing or harvesting insects requires very little feed, land and water compared with raising conventional livestock like cows and chickens, which is part of why insects are trending in conversations about sustainable food systems. In the years ahead, insects have great potential to fill an ever-growing need for protein, fatty acids and key minerals in the diets of both humans and livestock.

In this blog series, I will explore the relevance of entomophagy to global food security. I will address questions such as:

  • Who is eating insects? Where and why?
  • How nutritious are insects, and how might they contribute to sustainable diets?
  • What are some examples of insect-based livelihoods in developing countries?
  • Why should agricultural development practitioners care about edible insects, and what actions should we take?

For a quick introduction to entomophagy and its role in agricultural development, check out this six-minute lightning talk:

 

If you are up for a longer read, I highly recommend FAO’s 2013 report, “Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security”. This report examines and summarizes the available research on entomophagy. It interweaves case studies, personal examples, caveats, and knowledge gaps to make the case for further attention to edible insects in a global food security context.

What questions do you have about edible insects? Share them in the comments below, or email me, and I will do my best to answer your questions in future blog posts!

This blog post was cross-posted from Agrilinks.

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Oysters: An ethical choice

Photo of OystersAwhile back, Slate published a great article on why vegans should eat oysters. The author writes, “Oysters may be animals, but even the strictest ethicist should feel comfortable eating them by the boatload.”

From my observations, the main reasons that vegans choose not to eat animal products are: 1) animal products are implicated in the greatest portion of the environmental destruction linked with food production; 2) many animals suffer when they are raised and killed for food; and 3) there are clear health reasons to limit meat and dairy. Oysters, savvy bivalves that they are, stand firm against these three points.

First, oysters are good for the environment. They are listed as a “Best Choice” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list. Most oysters are farmed, but unlike other farmed seafood, they require very few inputs. In fact, they can improve their local ecosystems by filtering the water. I used to think that oysters could actually break down or sequester chemical pollutants, but their main effect is to remove algae, sediment, and excess nutrients, which improves water clarity and the conditions for other organisms to thrive. They also build reef structures that provide habitat for other tiny organisms.

Second, oysters feel about as much pain as plants do. They have no central nervous system, and there is no evidence to suggest they suffer any more pain than, say, a portobello. Humans have labeled them animals within our classification system, but they clearly belong in a different category from creatures with brains.

Lastly, oysters are a good source of of zinc, iron, calcium, selenium, and Vitamin B12 – nutrients that are abundant in certain animal products but that vegans might have a harder time obtaining. I’d argue that a few oysters are a better choice than a multivitamin, considering that vitamin and mineral supplement pills may be ineffective or even harmful.

Writing this post definitely has me craving a half-dozen oysters on the half shell!

“Picky eater” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy

Picky Eater

I frequently see articles and blog posts around the web espousing various tips and tricks to get your kids to eat healthy foods. Although I don’t have kids yet, I’ve certainly put some thought into how I plan to manage my eventual children’s diets. But I’m sure when the time comes, I’ll struggle to get my kids to eat their vegetables. What if I get the dreaded “picky eater”??

Perhaps the key is to do away with the concept of a “picky eater” altogether. I recently read this article on Huffington Post titled “6 Tips to Start Your Kids Off Eating Right”, which suggests a more relaxed approach to raising healthy kids. I’d recommend reading the whole post, but here’s the gist:

  • The term “picky eater” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you frequently label your child this way, he or she will make it part of his or her identity. “When a kid hears that they’re a picky eater, it validates for them that shunning certain foods is a part of who they are.”
  • “Hiding” healthy foods isn’t such a good idea.  (For example, concealing cauliflower in a macaroni & cheese dish.*) Your kids will catch on, and will become suspicious of food more generally. That’s definitely not a good thing!
  • Model healthy eating for your kids.  Even if they don’t like asparagus at first, if they see you eating it frequently, they might try it the 20th time. In fact, research shows that it can take 10-20 exposures for a child to begin liking a new food.
  • Your kids won’t starve.  Your job is to provide them lots of healthy options, but they get to choose whether and how much they eat. Never force your child to eat something – that will only create negative emotions around that particular food.

I’ll remember these tips when the time comes, and will be sure never to label my child a “picky eater”!

Do you have any strategies to encourage your kids to eat something other than goldfish crackers? If so, please share!

*Making cauliflower mac & cheese is a great idea – but no need to keep the ingredients a secret!