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Creative Entomophagy
April 29, 2013 9:11 AM   Subscribe

With an incredible protein-to-weight ration, insects have often been promoted as a superfood that could cure world hunger. (Although eating live insects may not be advisable.) However, the "grossness" factor often stops people from trying this comestible. Enter the 3-D printer to change all this.
posted by wolfdreams01 (80 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not sure that making my snacks look like something out of an H.R. Geiger illustration is going to get me to eat bugs, but they look like nice paperweights.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:12 AM on April 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


This food will feed millions... of nightmares.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:16 AM on April 29, 2013 [13 favorites]


The actual text somewhat contradicts the headline and lead in that Mary Roach peice - mealworms probably aren't eating their way out of anyone.
posted by Artw at 9:18 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


One problem is that articles like this use "protein" as if there were only one protein or all proteins were interchangeable -- which is about as far from being true as a thing can be. In fact we already do eat insects in the form of cochineal beetles as a source of red dye, and the presence of insect proteins in that alone are a source of problems for some people.

So, basically, you first. And me maybe ten years later after the real, honest studies are in, and then only assuming life is even worth living once we've made ourselves this desperate.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:19 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Take whatever you fear the most and put it directly into you belly. I call it the will to devour.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:24 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


"World hunger" is not a food problem.
posted by DU at 9:26 AM on April 29, 2013 [21 favorites]


The nutritionism and industrialism of this makes me roll my eyes. The artwork is gorgeous, though. I'd try it, but would rather eat insects prepared in some traditional manner.
posted by daveliepmann at 9:28 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Soylent Green is made of people!

Oh, and trust me, you don't even want to know what Soylent Yellow is made of.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:29 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


assuming life is even worth living once we've made ourselves this desperate.

Really? I'm totally down with insect-eating; I already dig on shrimp and lobsters and crabs, which certainly aren't any less clicky and weird-looking, and turning dried-and-reconstituted bugs into food is basically what we already do to turn a potato into pringles. I think this is cool as heck!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:33 AM on April 29, 2013 [14 favorites]


Why do you even need a 3D printer for this? Is it really that people find eating insects gross because the insect matter hasn't been shaped into complex sculptural forms?

I mean, I can see two real reasons why people won't eat food made of insects. Maybe you just think insects look gross — okay, so we'll grind them up into flour and make pancakes or something, and if you're on board with that, then great. But if not, then it's probably because you still know there are insects in there, and just the idea of eating an insect is gross — now, I don't see how taking the flour and 3D printing it should make any difference to you.
posted by narain at 9:33 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


If they could grind them into a slurry and make nuggets or maybe something like Slim Jims that were more salt and artificial smoke than bug I guess would eat them. I gotta do my part to end hunger right? Dunno if I am going to pop down to the store to buy some bug geodesic domes, I mean how do I even dip those in BBQ sauce.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:33 AM on April 29, 2013


"Soylent green is made out of lint! It's lint!"
posted by Walleye at 9:34 AM on April 29, 2013


that Mary Roach piece
Tangentially eponysterical
posted by beagle at 9:36 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Clearly these people have never had fried cicadas. The secret to bringing out the flavor is Old Bay, but then, when is it not?
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:37 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I was four, I got a girl down the street to eat an ant by sticking it inside a piece of candy. They should just try that.
posted by orme at 9:38 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


...shrimp and lobsters and crabs, which certainly aren't any less clicky and weird-looking

This is the reason for not eating those "foods" not a reason to add more bugs to the plate.
posted by DU at 9:39 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have seen the future of food, and it is a Cool Ranch-flavored scale model replica of that weird geometric sculpture in your downtown public park, made out of crushed bugs.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:44 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


DU, what specifically is your objection to (other people) eating crabs/lobsters/shrimp/insects?

Do you think it's bad for them? Do you think it's bad for other people?
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:44 AM on April 29, 2013


Sooo, cannibalism is still not socially acceptable? Quick answer please.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:45 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Process-wise, edible insects are being dried then grinded into powder.

Even as the English language is being ground into dust.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:47 AM on April 29, 2013 [14 favorites]


I kind of like an exhibition where the goal is to eat the art...
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:47 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the reason for not eating those "foods" not a reason to add more bugs to the plate.

Most humans ever would disagree.

There are few things more despairing and bewildering to me than what amounts to picky eating. If someone is not only that closed minded and boring about food but willfully ignorant about it, then how many of their other opinions and preferences do I not care about? I hedge my bets toward "most of them."
posted by cmoj at 9:48 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


is basically what we already do to turn a potato into pringles

I present to you this venn diagram, to which you may apply the labels "Pringles" and "Food":

 O O

fear my data modeling skills
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:50 AM on April 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


Do you think it's bad for them? Do you think it's bad for other people?

reasons i do not eat seafood:

- it is gross and icky
- i am allergic
- when the great old ones rise up to destroy humanity i will be spared their wrath for never having hungrily devoured their brethren
posted by elizardbits at 9:50 AM on April 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


My issue with eating plain bugs: texture. It's all about the texture. I like blue crab fine, but balk at eating the soft-shelled version and have no desire to consume any part of the hard shells themselves. Most bugs are unavoidably crunchily keratinous, which is just too much like chewing on hair or toenails for my taste.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:51 AM on April 29, 2013


This is how to do "high-culture" linkbait in 2013: combine something shocking with something high-tech, even if it makes no sense. "To make these insects most edible, we could cook the insect powder into a pancake or other traditional food item, but instead we'll 3D print it into ... an arbitrary geometric shape!"

Groundbreaking stuff.
posted by crayz at 9:51 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe if they 3D printed chicken nuggets those would be less repulsive too.
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I could murder a Shrimp Bruno right now. It is several jumbo shrimp with a Dijon sauce. Any way to make that with bugs food scientists? Cuz I'm down.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:54 AM on April 29, 2013


I'm only OK with this if we are printing out shapes that look like other food items, like a chicken leg.

Hey, it's no weirder than what we do with soy protein isolate.
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:55 AM on April 29, 2013


Hell yes I'd eat insects/worms. Mix them into the Dreaded Pink Slime, form them into high protein nuggets, gimme.

If I had a chance to do it all over again, I'd go into food science. So interesting, really front line stuff with a real impact on people's lives.
posted by unixrat at 9:56 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everything tastes better once it's reconstituted and deep-fried.

Bring on the Bug Nuggets!
posted by Pudhoho at 9:59 AM on April 29, 2013


We'd probably get protein powders before this, like the whey/hemp/pea based powders that are already on the market. Give is a snappy marketing name and throw in some creatine and caffiene and some oblliquely-named B-vitamins, call it a "sports supplement."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:01 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


It should be called REAL COOTIE POWER and have a picture of a lobster doing trap bar deadlifts.
posted by elizardbits at 10:02 AM on April 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hm. The social commentary in the link seems a little forced. If you want to talk about how it's crazy/interesting that people eat insects, go for it. Culture and taboo are fascinating. Don't pretend you're in it for world hunger or whatever.

I live in the rural northern part of South Africa, with the Tsonga and Venda ethnic groups, who include a lot of insects in their local diet. Mostly caterpillars ("Mopani worms"), locusts, shield bugs, different types of termites. They probably are a good source of protein, since the rest of the local diet is very heavy on carbs/fats and you can just harvest them yourself. Some are decently tasty, some not. Still, you won't see them filling up hungry people, you know? Pushing them as a global food source is silly. They're hardly substantial. Most of these are treated more like snacks than meals, though you do see the Mopani worms sometimes cooked into stew. They're just an acquired taste, and plenty of nearby groups never acquired that taste and you probably won't convince them to because they think it's gross.

For the record most rural Tsonga people I know find the idea of eating shellfish disgusting. Maybe I'll encourage some Tsonga artists to do art installations making the weird exotic food of lobster seem less terrible, to improve global nutrition or whatever. ;)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:03 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


MAN RAGE POWDER featuring PURE CICADA for MASSIVE LATS

and a little mascot of a locust wearing wraparound shades
posted by Greg Nog at 10:04 AM on April 29, 2013 [14 favorites]


The actual text somewhat contradicts the headline and lead in that Mary Roach peice - mealworms probably aren't eating their way out of anyone.

When I wrote "may not be advisable" I didn't mean that mealworms are actually eating their way out of people's stomachs - in fact, the article suggests otherwise. What I meant is simply that it was demonstrated that they will survive in your stomach wriggling around for quite a while, which may be off-putting to some people.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:07 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh man, and it could have a little animation of a locust just done BUSTIN OUT OF ITS SKIN CAUSE IT'S SO DAMN HUGE NOW.
posted by elizardbits at 10:08 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


they will survive in your stomach wriggling around for quite a while, which may be off-putting to some people.

They say Gagh is best when served live.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:09 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cicadas? Locusts? Nah bro, for the sickest gains you want PURE ANT PROTEIN. Those little dudes lift fifty times their own weight, you know.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:10 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Cicada needs to say 'Do you even lift bro?'
posted by Ad hominem at 10:11 AM on April 29, 2013


Heed the words of Fishguy2727!
posted by KokuRyu at 10:14 AM on April 29, 2013


One example of a commercial insect farm.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:14 AM on April 29, 2013


One example of a commercial insect farm.

The best part of that site is that if you go to the "Human Consumption" page in English, you can see where they're still using placeholder text as hey figure out how to market this.

Mention here the UN WHO and similar organisations?

posted by Greg Nog at 10:17 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why do you even need a 3D printer for this?

Nanotech isn't as buzzworthy as it used to be; 3D printing is the technofetish linkbait du jour
posted by ook at 10:19 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The insect flour is then mixed with icing butter, cream cheese or water, gelling agent and flavouring

Add some powdered sugar and you've got yourself a protein-rich frosting! If this means I can justify eating a tub of Betty Crocker Rainbow Chip in one sitting, I'm on board.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:22 AM on April 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Eat Mor Nutria.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:26 AM on April 29, 2013


Ad hominem: ... Shrimp Bruno ... is several jumbo shrimp with a Dijon sauce.

I like the idea in theory, but in that photo at least it gets an F- for presentation. Little desolate whatsits, lying dead and alone in a dingy yellow pool with a scum ring of parsley...
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:29 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like the idea in theory, but in that photo at least it gets an F- for presentation. Little desolate whatsits, lying dead and alone in a dingy yellow pool with a scum ring of parsley...

How bout this one. Although I have to admit it always looks more like the first pic I linked. I never cared how it looked because it is so damn good.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:33 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alone Shrimp in Desolation Sauce would make a great entree for a despair-and-ennui themed restaurant.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:35 AM on April 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


I tried to eat bugs a few times and god, I just could not do it. I was deep in the "Look at me, I'm having a cross-cultural experience and am Very Open to Trying New Things!" mindset and still I could not bring myself to put them in my mouth. Live flying ants, cooked locust-y things, whatever.

I would like to believe that this is not so much a sign of picky weakness on my part, as some sort of evolutionary defense mechanism to keep me from eating poisonous spiders. (The fact that there are thousands (millions?) of people who eat bugs pretty well negates that theory, but I'm holding on to it anyway. Because -- eeeeeek.)

But, as someone mentioned above, I also do not eat paperweights, or super-ginormous diatoms. So.
posted by gerstle at 10:52 AM on April 29, 2013


This is the best possible ad campaign for an Arrested Development Carl Weathers cameo.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:56 AM on April 29, 2013


I've eaten lots of bugs. All you have to do is ride a motorcycle and smile.
posted by ook at 11:05 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Grasshoppers/locusts aren't bad fried.They taste like dried shrimp. Ate them in Mxico once as a kid, on a dare. Ate them all gone with squeezed like, salt, pinch of chili and some black pepper. Got to have a beer with it. Perfectly nice. I'd eat it again, but not most other bugs. I've got to say I'd far rather find cochineal as a red dye than Red Dye 40. Red Dye 40 is pure headache juice for me.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:19 AM on April 29, 2013


I'd probably just snack on the raw filament...
posted by hellphish at 11:23 AM on April 29, 2013


I'd eat almost anything mixed with cream cheese icing, so they seem to have cracked the code for bug-eating with this vegetarian.

Though I do think a meal of bugnuggets and bugburgers with buggonaise would be more popular.
If they made a sequel called "A Bug's Death" there could even be a happy meal tie in.
Have your people call my people, McDonalds.
posted by rmless at 11:43 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


when the great old ones rise up to destroy humanity i will be spared their wrath for never having hungrily devoured their brethren

They're called "The Great Old Ones" because even though they're old, they still taste great! Especially with horseradish sauce.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:49 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


when the great old ones rise up to destroy humanity i will be spared their wrath for never having hungrily devoured their brethren

Hate to break it to you, but hungrily devouring your brethren, preferably while they still live and scream, is about the most effective way of showing you're really down with the Old Ones. If you can find a way to hungrily jam your living screaming brethren into a 3D printer with the end result being HR Giger Crips, then you are *set*.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:11 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


HR Giger Crips is the name of my new Lovecraftian horrorcore hip-hop group.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:23 PM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Try Old Ones™ brand locust-puree Xenomorphitos, now available in new Smoky Chipotle flavor! Just look for the Yellow Sign* on the package!

*Do not look directly at the Yellow Sign.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:25 PM on April 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Tastes like chiton.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:29 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


They can hardly even sell Quorn so I don't think insect goop is going to go very far. The 3D printing angle is largely irrelevant - they could just as well put the mush in a mold to form it into beetle nuggets or what have you.
posted by GuyZero at 12:39 PM on April 29, 2013


> We'd probably get protein powders before this, like the whey/hemp/pea based powders that are already on the market. Give is a snappy marketing name and throw in some creatine and caffiene and some oblliquely-named B-vitamins, call it a "sports supplement."

In a somewhat similar train of thought, I immediately imagined that incorporating ground-bug-powder into snack chips would be all kinds of win-win. More nutritious junkfood, less reliance on massive overproduction of corn, etc.
posted by desuetude at 12:43 PM on April 29, 2013


Insects are good. I have eaten roasted grasshoppers in Mexico and Thailand. Great salty snack with beers.

I met a guy who spent some time in termite land in Africa. He described being offered prepared winged termites for eating and being repulsed. Eventually he was able to nibble on a leg, then worked his way up to eating them regularly. By the time he left Africa, he said that he was catching them live in the air and gobbling them.
posted by telstar at 12:48 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like Quorn. If they made a bug patty that tasted as much like a hamburger as Quorn tastes like chicken nuggets*, I'd eat that bug patty.

*i.e. not at all like chicken. But fast food burgers already don't taste like beef, so the bug patty doesn't have to either
posted by ook at 12:57 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


oh god what is wrong with quorn i like quorn

DON'T SAY THERE IS SOMETHING WEIRD ABOUT QUORN OKAY
posted by elizardbits at 1:01 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Depends: Do you find fungus weird?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:11 PM on April 29, 2013


The Quorn formula is based on a fungus found originally in a field in West London.

That all sounds very well, but where in West London? These things matter more than you can possibly imagine. I quote from Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest:
Lady Bracknell: Ah, nowadays that is no guarantee of respectability of character. What number in Belgrave Square?

Jack: 149.

Lady Bracknell: [Shaking her head.] The unfashionable side. I thought there was something. However, that could easily be altered.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:11 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


As long at it's not grown from crotch rot I don't really care.
posted by elizardbits at 1:13 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, at least with Quorn you don't need the 3-D printers. It comes pre-moulded.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:13 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Quorn texture comes from egg.
posted by Artw at 1:34 PM on April 29, 2013


One example of a commercial insect farm.

One example of a student-run cricket-raising business:
Bumu (short for “bug munch”).
posted by LeLiLo at 2:13 PM on April 29, 2013


Perhaps instead of 3d printing this it could be artisanally stone ground and artistically hand piped into delicate little arabesques that look like famous moustaches and sold from and old-timey hand cart?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:22 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quorn is vat grown, ergo creepy to people who prefer to eat fruiting bodies only. I will eat vat bluefin tuna though, chop fucking chop.
posted by lordaych at 2:38 PM on April 29, 2013


Termites are indeed delicious but I still can't bring myself to eat them alive. Possibly because once a colleague of mine took a live one of the big flying ones (not the small bitey ones) and told me there was olive oil inside and squeezed open its head to show me while it writhed and I am fighting a gag reflex just thinking about it.

Food-related PTSD.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:02 PM on April 29, 2013


This is cool, but it reeks of first-world privilege. As said above, world hunger isn't a food problem; and unpalatability isn't an issue in the face of hunger. Hunger makes everything delicious, if our varied gastronomic history of head cheeses and other offal is any sign.

Moreover, the places most affected by hunger wouldn't have neato 3D printers to do this with anyway.
posted by baconaut at 3:39 PM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


You sell this for $$$$$ at the hip restaurant with the foams and the liquid nitrogen and the 3D printer.

And out of the $$$$$ you send .00$ to some third world country for something that may actually help with hunger.

Eat tiny portions of bland 3D printed food and cleanse your conscience in one sitting. Like communion and confession.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 4:57 PM on April 29, 2013


I eat cheese puffs, extrusion-molded fried cornflour flavored with cheese. I don't need elaborate 3D-printed artforms to persuade me to eat food products of mysterious provenance, is what I'm getting at here. Just mix the bug flour with a starch base, cheese powder, and water, extrude in fun shapes, and flash-fry. Call it Locos or Crickos or Bugyuns and you will make zillions.
posted by gingerest at 12:00 AM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


First link doesn't work for me, unfortunately. But I agree that it's completely silly to be calling this a possible solution to world hunger. Even if we -were- looking for new sources of protein, we'd be much better starting with squid or other cephalopods. Fast-growing, short-lived, high reproduction rates, and far bigger and more abundant than insects. Also without that pesky exoskeleton thing going on.

Though I -do- love to eat mushrooms and tell people I'm nomming upon chitin. Mmmm... chitin. ;)
posted by po at 8:19 AM on April 30, 2013


OMG, what can’t the 3D printer do?
posted by bongo_x at 10:42 AM on April 30, 2013


Edible insects - "Future prospects for food and feed security" from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:09 AM on May 14, 2013


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