donderdag 30 oktober 2014

Mac Bug - or the globalisation of Insects and Worms as Food

Last summer, when I was in Valencia, a friend showed me an article called "Will We All Be Eating Insects in 50 Years", which explains the benefits for our health and nature if we would eat more and more insects instead of meat. Even the United Nations is doing research to promote this food in the West. In countries in Africa, Asia and Latin-America, insects belong to the diet of many people. So... why not in the West? The idea to change the world by promoting insects as food in Europe started to grow, because it fits my values of health, economics and care. Some weeks later I talked with a friend from Switzerland who studies agriculture about this. He told me you cannot sell insects in Switzerland, but his friends are designing "boxes which allow you to cultivate your own insects" to bypass the law. My brother and I talked also some days ago about having an insect farm, and two days ago my brother came home and asked me I am ready for a culinar experiment. I thought that he was going to make pancakes with bacon or something, but then he showed me a package of “Nuggets made with Buffallo Worms.” .

Insect Nuggets
Immediately I said yes. I was surprised that you could buy this in a supermarket in Vorselaar, which is Almost in the Middle of Nowhere in Flanders, so I asked my friend Google since when you can buy insect food in Belgium.

I read that it's legal in Belgium. Sometimes I really love my country for it's open mind :)

Entomophagy, or the eating of bugs, is widely regarded as one of the most promising solutions to increasing environmental pressure, worldwide food insecurity and the rising cost of animal protein. Edible insects, which require minimal space to breed and produce no greenhouse gases, are 40 to 70% protein. (Corn, in comparison, is only 10%.)While the EU is yet to come out with a clear position on eating insects, Belgium has taken the lead and legalised its own list of 10, making it the first European country where the consumption of insects is officially allowed.

In fact, I did not miss out. The products of Damhert, a Belgian company that like the animal Damhert (English: Fallow Deer) selects his food consciously, put these products in the end of October in the market -which is now. In the last 30 years they produced gluten free, sugar free, vegetarian... products and now they want to take the lead in insect based foods.

Benefits of insect food
So why should I eat insects? I made a selection of interesting video's:

If you have more time, watch this video from BBC about the entomophagy in Thailand and Cambodja: You learn there that poverty forces young kids to catch and eat tarantula's (and it's even healthy), or see the BBC-crew attacked by red ants, before they eat the eggs.

Hashtag #Insectfood
I took an instagram picture from the package and shared it with explanation on my facebook, not to show off, but to see the reactions, while waiting for my brother preparing this for dinner. 

Besides the many likes, I've got interesting remarks from (Facebook) friends of whole Europe.
Let share some of them and add some intercultural theme.

* The student restaurant in Brussels is serving this on thursdays two weeks ago they also served worm-burgers, njamie !  (Belgian friend)
* They are great. We tried it already (Belgian friend 2).
* Well, that is a very open-minded thinking... I guess (Romanian friend)
* The worm burgers are great too btw (Belgian friend 2 again)
* o_o you live and learn... (Finnish friend)
* The "go green" label is doubtful, however, enjoy your meal! (German friend)
* Was it worms or insects?(German friend)

I googled worms and insects are not the same, but they are both invertebrates which are animals that does not have a vertebral column. I learnt something new today.

And then remarks that makes us think about food even more... 

A girl from Poland was more critical: 
 Don't want to ruin your appetite but what exactly can be tasty about the highly processed fast food that is just heated up in a microwave or deep-oil-fried?

I answered with: 
I really like your remark . To get reactions, especially critically, I posted this picture. Food is one of our biggest needs, and a lot of people do not think critically about it. We do not think if it's healthy for us, or what's their ecological footprint (I've to admit I still buy food coming from other sides of the world and it makes me ashamed, because I am conscious about all the damage this globalisation of goods does to the environment)... and I've to admit that this is not the best food I ever had, and I agree that it would be more healthy, better for the environment (and I can give more benefits) if we would eat fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs... from our own garden, local organic farm.... but I like these kind of "inventions" like "worm nuggets" which makes the step easier and more accessible for a lot of people to try this. Probably the way how it's processed can be improved, but it's good to show people "look we can eat different", "look we can live in a different world" 

Another guy from Germany remarked: 
I've been a vegetarian for several years now and I'm aware that it is certainly also not the best way in terms of sustainability and ecological footprint, in particular when it comes to meat replacement products, much like the one you've tried here, but based on soy (protein).While I salute your approach of thinking outside the box to raise awareness, I don't think I'm personally ready for this particular innovation just yet. Gladly though, I don't need to think too much about it as I've just classified worms and insects as "animals", therefore I simply can't eat them anyway. 
If I am made aware of it, I'd always prefer to buy locally grown organic products, but I also still shop too often just for convenience. One problem is that we as consumers expect every product to be available at any time, the only notable part-exceptions that come to my mind now would be strawberries and asparagus.

The Polish girl reacted:
actually Wendy, I disagree. Showing people such a food motivates them to experiment with things they don't know. If they like it, or at least don't hate it, they make a step further, namely rather buy food from the other part of the world than get seasonal food from the local producer. Insecta Nuggets seems rather a promotion of exotic food to me- I can't see a big label 'local product' and the first place of origin that comes to peoples' minds when they see insects/worms being a meal is most likely somewhere in Asia, well definitely not Belgium

I have to remark that Damhert tries to promote "healthy" food, and not really exotic food. They make products that also can be produced here. 

Anti-imperialism-movement of the Insects

As a Belgian friend remarked, to who my brother showed the package the next day, "in fact it would be easy if we eat insects. Just do not clean the spider webs and cultivate the insects from there."
You can cultivate insects everywhere. I do not encourage exporting insects from other countries, but exporting the idea, the mindset... 
My biggest fear for entomophagy is that this will become another globalised business, still having a big ecological impact, because "cheaper insects and worms" will be imported from "cheap labour countries". Still... I hope it would be so cheap to make insects everywhere, it's not necessary to import them. Insects can connect us again with local economies. Hopefully more economies will become more local, because I believe in globalisation or mobility of ideas and people, but not in international trade or mobility of goods. 

Why do we not east insects in the West? 

The Westerners took over almost whole the world and saw themselves better than whole the world for many centuries. They did not eat insects, because they associated it with indigenous people, with "savages", but maybe it's time that we go off our throne and embrace the idea of eating insects, instead of worrying about the increasing meat consumption in other countries. How often don't you read in the news that the meat consumption in China for example grew from 20kg/year/person increased in the last years to 50kg/year/person and that we should educate people from other countries to think more critically about their food habits, their consumption habits, their lifestyle? We are afraid for overpopulation (which is not going to happen if you study the graph of the demographic growth), global warmth, deforestry... but still look to the other side of the world for all problems. It's embedded in our system, our patriarchal system, to think in dualities and give the others the fault
If I have to think in dualities, I would not tell others what to do, but learn from others what we can do. 

And how does it taste?
Well, it is not the best thing I ever tasted, but it was not bad either. I did not think about the fact that I was eating worms, but just food... of the future. 

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