David George Gordon, the Bug Chef, holds one of his deep-fried tarantulas.

 Dennis Van Tine/LFI/Photoshot/Newscom


Bugs for Dinner

Why are more Americans warming up to the idea of eating insects?

Your dinner is breaded and fried. It’s seasoned with a dash of spice. The chef tells you that the meal is delicious and healthy.

Ready to chow down? You’re about to eat a fried tarantula! It’s one of dozens of dishes created by the man known as the Bug Chef. For more than 20 years, David George Gordon has traveled the U.S., cooking up bugs and encouraging people to try them.

Americans often think of insects only as pests. But about 2 billion people around the globe eat bugs regularly (see “What the World Is Eating”). More than 2,100 types of insects and arachnids (such as spiders and scorpions) are safe to eat.

For a long time, Gordon had trouble convincing Americans to try the termites, cockroaches, and gigantic spiders he served. But in recent years, he has seen attitudes slowly change.

“People are actually getting more comfortable with eating insects,” says Gordon.

Why? Americans are learning that eating bugs is good for their health and for the environment.

Your dinner is breaded and fried. It’s seasoned with a dash of spice. The chef says the meal is delicious and healthy.

Ready to chow down? You’re about to eat a fried tarantula! It’s one of dozens of dishes created by the man known as the Bug Chef. For more than 20 years, David George Gordon has traveled the U.S. He cooks up bugs and encourages people to try them.

Americans often think of insects only as pests. But about 2 billion people around the globe eat bugs regularly (see “What the World Is Eating”). More than 2,100 types of bugs are safe to eat. That includes arachnids, such as spiders and scorpions.

For a long time, Gordon had trouble convincing Americans to try the termites, cockroaches, and gigantic spiders he served. But he has seen attitudes slowly change in recent years.

“People are actually getting more comfortable with eating insects,” says Gordon.

Why? Americans are learning that eating bugs is good for their health. It’s also good for the environment. 

A Crunchy Snack

Around the country, bugs are showing up on menus at more restaurants. Fans of the Seattle Mariners baseball team can buy chapulines at the ballpark. Chapulines are grasshoppers, a traditional snack from Mexico. Plus, several companies are making cookies and energy bars that have ground-up crickets as a main ingredient.  

Bugs are becoming a big business in the U.S. Last year, Americans spent more than $55 million on insects that are edible, or safe to eat. That amount is predicted to double by 2024. This is according to a report by research company Global Market Insights.  

Mohammed Ashour is part of the U.S. bug boom. He is a founder of Aspire Food Group, which sells cricket protein bars and other snacks. The company raises 35 million crickets per month at its farm in Austin, Texas. But that hasn’t been nearly enough to keep up with demand. Aspire plans to raise 10 times as many crickets next year.

“Three years ago, the idea of giving someone crispy crickets was too much,” says Ashour. “But edible insects are moving closer and closer to the mainstream.”

Around the country, bugs are showing up on menus at more restaurants. Fans of the Seattle Mariners baseball team can buy chapulines at the ballpark. Chapulines are grasshoppers. They are a traditional snack from Mexico. And several companies are making cookies and energy bars that have ground-up crickets as a main ingredient. 

Bugs are becoming a big business in the U.S. Last year, Americans spent more than $55 million on insects that are edible. Edible means they are safe to eat. That amount is predicted to double by 2024. This is according to a report by research company Global Market Insights. 

Mohammed Ashour is part of the U.S. bug boom. He is a founder of Aspire Food Group. Aspire sells cricket protein bars and other snacks. The company raises 35 million crickets per month at its farm in Austin, Texas. But that hasn’t been enough to keep up with demand. Aspire plans to raise 10 times as many crickets next year.

“Three years ago, the idea of giving someone crispy crickets was too much,” says Ashour. “But edible insects are moving closer and closer to the mainstream.”

Lalo de Almeida/The New York Times/Redux (queen ants); Ingo Arndt/Minden Pictures (locusts); Suzy Bennett/Alamy Stock Photo (witchetty grub); Sherwin/EPA/REX/Shutterstock (scorpion)

The Benefits of Bugs

Many experts say the change in attitudes toward insects is a good thing. In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations issued a major report about the benefits of eating bugs. The authors argued that raising insects is better for the environment than raising cows, pigs, and chickens.

Those animals require a lot of food, water, and land. But farming insects requires far fewer resources. For example, a cricket farmer can raise 2,000 crickets in one bin smaller than a bathtub. Some edible insects don’t need any water to survive.

“Eating bugs is way better for the planet,” says Gordon.

Another benefit of insects is that they reproduce rapidly. That means bug farmers can provide a lot of food quickly—and cheaply.

Also, bugs’ tiny bodies are packed with nutrients. For example, a handful of chapulines contains more protein than the same amount of beef. Protein is a nutrient that helps your muscles grow.

Many experts say the change in attitudes toward insects is a good thing. In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations issued a major report. It was about the benefits of eating bugs. The authors argued that raising insects is better for the environment than raising cows, pigs, and chickens.

Those animals require a lot of food, water, and land. But farming insects requires far fewer resources. For example, a cricket farmer can raise 2,000 crickets in one bin smaller than a bathtub. Some edible insects don’t need any water to survive.

“Eating bugs is way better for the planet,” says Gordon.

Another benefit of insects is that they reproduce rapidly. That means bug farmers can provide a lot of food quickly—and cheaply.

Also, bugs’ tiny bodies are packed with nutrients. For example, a handful of chapulines contains more protein than the same amount of beef. Protein is a nutrient that helps your muscles grow.

Flavor First

Insects may be nutritious, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to eat them. Many people have a hard time getting over what Gordon calls the “ick factor.” He says the best way to convince people to eat bugs is to make delicious foods with them.

“If it tastes like cardboard, no one’s going to be interested,” Gordon says.

Gordon has advice for anyone who is still nervous about taking that first bite of a baked cricket.

“Be an adventurous eater,” he says. “Try something new.”

Insects may be nutritious. But that doesn’t mean everyone wants to eat them. Many people have a hard time getting over what Gordon calls the “ick factor.” He says the best way to convince people to eat bugs is to make delicious foods with them.

“If it tastes like cardboard, no one’s going to be interested,” Gordon says.

Gordon has advice for anyone who is still nervous about taking that first bite of a baked cricket.

“Be an adventurous eater,” he says. “Try something new.”

1. How does Jennifer Shotz begin the article? Why do you think she chose that beginning?

2. What does Mohammed Ashour mean when he says “edible insects are moving closer and closer to the mainstream”? What details support his claim?

3. Summarize the benefits of eating bugs.

4. What is the purpose of the sidebar “What the World Is Eating”?

1. How does Jennifer Shotz begin the article? Why do you think she chose that beginning?

2. What does Mohammed Ashour mean when he says “edible insects are moving closer and closer to the mainstream”? What details support his claim?

3. Summarize the benefits of eating bugs.

4. What is the purpose of the sidebar “What the World Is Eating”?

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