Eating Bugs for Change

By Ben Ansell

The last time I put a bug anywhere near my mouth was to demonstrate my raw manliness to my grade 2 classmates. I cannot recall the taste. I’m guessing maybe chicken… or dirt. It certainly wasn’t anything in the realm of a tempura cricket san choy bao.

Melbourne chef Ben McMenamin is swapping out the more traditional forms of protein to promote bugs as a genuine alternative to meat and seafood.

The collaboration between EFFA and The Social Food Project is set to create change by providing a tangible and hands on experience into the use of bugs in western cuisine. The Social Food Project, founded by MenMenamin, uses food to bring people together. They believe this act of bringing people together can be a powerful catalyst for change.

“I’ve always been interested in bugs and how they can be used in my style of cooking," McMenamin says. "I’m originally from New Zealand so coming to Australia and finding out about all this amazing native food is exciting. I have experimented with bugs a little bit and I’m obviously very interested in using any kind of food product that is more sustainable.”

to many australians, insects as food is a novelty - something indulged in when on a school trip to central Australia, or on a hawker street in shanghai.

The facts show that we are the anomaly. A story written in 2012 by Spencer Michels landed the statistic that 80 percent of the world’s population eat insects as a regular part of their diet.  And there certainly is no shortage of them!

1.1 million species of insects have been identified and named by scientists, 1,700 of which are edible. And then the nutritional value! A six-ounce serving of crickets contains around 60% less saturated fat and twice as much vitamin B12 than the same amount of ground beef.  Does knowing this change anything for you? Probably not.

“For the Sustainable Feast we are using crickets, dehydrated ants and mealworms. We also have a small amount of cockroaches but I’m not really keen to use them," McMenamin says. "For some reason people are open to eating crickets, ants and mealworms but as soon as you put a cockroach down in front of them they’re like, 'That’s gross, I’m not putting that anywhere near my mouth'.”

For many, including myself, there is a strong psychological barrier that stands between altering my diet to contain bugs. However, the benefits of overcoming this psychological hurdle are many.

this viable alternative to meat and seafood not only provides a possible solution to food and protein shortages, but also an opportunity to wean ourselves off a huge reliance on livestock - an industry that emits more carbon than cars and planes combined.

“One of the major benefits of using bugs is that they will basically eat anything and as a result you can use bioproducts from the current agriculture industry. With industrialgrain-fed beef production for example, you need to produce grain to feed the cattle. Obviously some cattle are grass fed and there are ways to do that, that are more sustainable and regenerative. But a lot of the larger more industrial systems have to grow food especially to feed the food. It is a double use of resources. With bugs you have the opportunity to close both doors.”

As we place increasing emphasis on sustainable energy and development, we need to take seriously the idea of introducing viable alternatives to change food system that is not working.

The Sustainable Feast is being held on Monday the 3rd of October at the Grub Food Van , 89 Moor Street Fitzroy North.

Tickets available through the EFFA website.