Why don't we eat insects?

Insects are the most viable source of protein for the not too distant future.
Insects are the most viable source of protein for the not too distant future. / SUR
  • We're still looking for new sources of nutrients and in just a few years have incorporated more new foods into our diet than we have over the last five centuries

We live our lives continually worried about the depletion of our natural resources. Our search for new sources of nutrients has, in just a few years, seen more new foods incorporated into our diets than in the last five centuries. We now eat flowers, fruit, leaves, seeds and exotic roots and even, on occasion, plankton.

We unknowingly eat fillets of foreign species of fish which are disguised with commercial names to induce confidence. However, there are some things that we would find difficult to eat, such as insects, no matter how much time has been invested in studies and campaigns to convince us that they are the most viable source of protein for the not too distant future.

There is a reason for this, which anthropologists Lorenzo Mariano Juárez and Julián López García explain very well in an article published in the Colección E-Books ICAF (International Commission on Food Anthropology), and it is none other than food culture.

No longer human

They argue that "even in situations of extreme hunger, humans will not eat just anything to fill their stomachs", and add that "forcing people to eat something unpleasant [...] can satisfy their hunger, but it can also lead to the annulment of the definition of being human".

In other words, we are defined by what we eat, but we are also defined by the extent of what we refuse to eat, including things that are appreciated as a delicacy in other cultures.

The horse meat scandal

We found it scandalous that we were being given horse meat in certain meat products, and there are people from other cultures (and religions) who would prefer not to eat at all rather than let pork or beef pass their lips.

In Spanish, the popular insult "que te den morcilla" (I hope they give you black pudding) comes from a time when consuming the blood of an animal was considered disgusting. Now black pudding is found on most restaurants' menus throughout the country.

This goes to show that we will eat everything, within reason, and there are foods that we have a hard time getting used to, no matter how healthy and nutritious they tell us they are. But we get there.