Ha ha, Whole Foods. Very funny.
Yesterday, on Friday, April 1st, the Whole Foods website homepage featured an ad for “Insects Raised With Compassion: Our true partnerships with farmers and ranchers allow us to offer the highest quality, tiniest meat on the planet,” as well as a bug-ranching guide for the 6-legged protein source (see above). Whole Foods was just kidding around here, but they may not be far from the truth — this could be a reality within the next 5-10 years.
No doubt the joke originated from all the recent news articles about the benefits of edible insects. As you may have read, the UN is formally considering a policy paper on edible insects as an as an alternative to livestock, which currently occupies 2/3 of the world’s farmland and generates 20% of all the greenhouse gases causing global warming. Insects require far fewer resources (up to 5 times less food and 900 times less water), less land space, and contribute less greenhouse gases to raise a comparable amount of protein.
In the USA, the idea of selling edible insects at a grocery store is absurd, but this isn’t the case in many other cultures — nearly 80% of the world doesn’t swat bugs off the menu. Consider the mopane caterpillar in South Africa, which fetches a higher market price than beef.
Clearly, there is a real-world precedent here, not to mention the fact that the FDA allows an astonishingly high level of insect parts in all processed foods. That’s right, everything from peanut butter to pasta is likely to have some insect bits in it. Chocolate alone can have up to 60 insect fragments per 100 grams. Whole Foods essentially had it right: they do technically offer edible insects in all of their stores — as does every other grocery store in the country.
Don’t freak out, though. Edible insects can be quite good for you. They are high in protein, low in fat and carbs, and provide many essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, and potassium, as well as Omega fatty acids. In fact, one of the ways farmers increase Omega fatty acids in eggs is by supplementing the chickens’ diet with insects.
Ultimately, the idea of Whole Foods partnering with bug farmers, or selling organic dried insects may not be such a crazy concept after all — it may in fact be more of a premonition. Let’s not forget, sushi was once a pipe-dream and a source of ridicule, too; now it can be found in nearly every city in America.
Maybe by next April Fools’ day, the idea of eating bugs won’t be so funny.