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How Many Bugs Do Humans Eat A Year

by Annabel Caldwell
How Many Bugs Do Humans Eat A Year

How Many Bugs Do Humans Eat A Year

A new study from an insect control company estimated that we eat, on average, 140,000 ‘bug bits’ every year. Mealworm, maggot, and roach pieces are found in everyday foods like chocolate, coffee, and wheat flour.

The thought of eating bugs is gross to many people. Yet, millions of us do it every day without a second thought. In fact, according to the most recent report from the National Alliance for Model Cities (NAMC), Americans consume more than 1 billion insects annually. That’s about 4 pounds per person. And the amount could be even higher because people often don’t count snack-sized crickets or mealworms as part of their daily caloric intake.
Now, there is a startup called Bug Bounty that wants to change that. The company estimates that humans are regularly consuming 140,000 “bugs” — including beetles, caterpillars, ants, and more creepy crawly critters — each year. If you’re not down with bug food, then know this: Eating these tiny creatures isn’t going to make you sick or cause any health problems. But if the mere idea of eating them makes you uncomfortable, at least one expert says there may be something you should consider: It’s good for your skin.
Insects have been used for medicinal purposes throughout history, but they weren’t eaten by people until relatively recently. Ancient Egyptians relied on silkworms while Chinese medicine masters turned to locusts and grasshoppers. Even during World War II, soldiers ate worms and grubs to help digest canned rations. But it wasn’t until a few decades ago when Westerners started adopting these culinary habits. Now, Americans spend nearly $1 million annually on edible insects across the country.
Bug Bounty began in 2014 after founder and CEO Ben Grossman was inspired by his own love of bugs. He grew up on farms where he would discover larvae snacking on corn stalks, so he knew firsthand how delicious bugs can taste. However, Grossman also realized that the public perception of eating insects has changed dramatically over the years. While some people think of bugs as disgusting pests, others see them as delicacies fit for fine dining.
So, Grossman decided to create a platform that allows folks who want to try bugs to get access to fresh, local produce. More importantly, he wanted to educate consumers on what bugs actually look like, why they’re considered safe to eat, and how to cook them properly.
“We were kind of trying to bridge the gap between those two worlds,” he told me via email. “[People] might have heard about them being beneficial in nature, but didn’t really understand what that meant.”
To that end, Grossman developed edible bug products like freeze-dried cricket chips, roasted grasshopper nuggets, and crispy black bean ant burgers. These snacks come in bite-size pieces so you can easily incorporate them into meals. They also cost less than other high protein snacks like nuts and seeds. Grossman believes the price difference is because he doesn’t use preservatives or fillers.
As for the taste factor, Grossman said bugs are actually very similar to fruits and vegetables because they contain lots of fiber, water, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, unlike meat, insects aren’t known to carry diseases.
What’s more, the nutritional value of bugs is comparable to lean sources like chicken breast and fish. Insects are also low in calories, fat, sodium, cholesterol, and carbs. And since they’re small animals, they require far fewer resources to grow compared to livestock.
If all of this sounds great, then why haven’t I tried any of Grossman’s snacks? Well, it’s hard to find bugs near my home in Los Angeles. Grossman ships his products nationwide, but some states, like California, New York, and New Jersey, still ban the sale of edible insects. So, you’ll need to plan ahead.
I finally decided to give Grossman’s crunchy snack bites a whirl last month. My first order came with three packages of dry roasted mealworms, which arrived in a clear bag filled with crushed ice. Each package included an instructional video showing viewers exactly how to prepare the bugs. To make mealworms, Grossman uses a process called “beetle farming” where he grows mealworms inside hydroponic trays containing beet pulp and molasses.
My first instinct upon opening the bag was to throw away the whole thing. Then I noticed the cute little legs twitching around on top of the crushed ice. Grossman had sent me live bugs! I froze everything immediately and put the baggie in the freezer. After 30 minutes, I took out the frozen mealworms and popped them in a bowl along with a spoonful of plain yogurt. Within minutes, the soft shells cracked open revealing tender white flesh. Grossman recommends using a fork instead of chopsticks to eat the bugs, but I preferred cracking them open myself. I’m glad I did because it made cleaning up easier.
While the mealworms tasted delicious, I wasn’t blown away by the experience. Grossman claims his product tastes better than store-bought crickets, but I’d have to agree. I’ve never liked cricket chow. Also, I’ve seen videos online of people having fun making their own mealworms by feeding them a special diet. You can purchase dried mealworms at stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Sprouts, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Not only will it add unnecessary time and effort to your project, but you won’t get the same results.
On a positive note, Grossman’s snacks are definitely convenient to work with. All you have to do is pop them in your mouth, chew them, and enjoy. Still, I probably won’t buy another box anytime soon. Next time, I’ll just take the instructions online and crush them myself.

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