How many times have you seen, “By 2050 the human population is expected to grow to… and feed/food production will need to increase by…”?
The fear of food insecurity is real. But we have seen its ugly face before during the first and second world wars. This leads me to wonder: can food conservation efforts in the past help us address the issue of food insecurity now and in the future?
Today, we suggest using insects to mitigate protein deficits; during the world wars, at least in the US, the solution was to eat animal organ meats (e.g., kidneys, liver, heart). Similar to insects, organ meats were not popular in American diets. And asking Americans to change the meat they consumed–something that was a staple item on American plates–was a huge challenge.
So, what do Americans think of BSF in feed and food? Higa et al. (2021) suggests two significant predictors that influence the willingness of Americans to feed BSF to animals or include insects in their own diet: 1) participants were informed of the benefits of eating insects (e.g. less pollution, less greenhouse gases, less resources, and highly nutritious), and 2) whether participants thought insects were disgusting (termed 'disgustingness').
Results showed that both factors predicted the participants’ willingness to feed BSF to their dogs, but only disgustingness was a significant predictor for overall willingness to eat BSF directly or indirectly (when they are fed to farmed animals that are consumed by Americans). These results are fascinating as they may suggest different ways to campaign for insects in feed or food. If insects in feed (for animals not consumed) is the goal, discussing the benefits of insect production can be useful. However, if insects in human food is the goal, this approach may not be effective, and it may be worth addressing the issue of disgustingness instead.
Even more interesting…
The findings about insect inclusion in American diets aligns with the campaign to eat organ meats employed by the US government during WWII when Americans were forced to ration meat. Instead of approaching the situation with, “what can we do to convince Americans to eat organ meats?" (i.e. discussing the benefits of insect production), which was the focus during WWI when meat was not rationed, the approach during WWII focused on "why are Americans not including organ meats in their diets?” (i.e. addressing the issues with insects, such as disgustingness) (Romm 2014).
The campaign in WWII was successful, but the effects did not last long. Today, there are probably more Americans that do not eat organ meats than those that do. So, back to my question: can food conservation efforts in the past help us address the issue of food insecurity now and in the future?
If including insects in the American diet is the end goal, history has taught us that we should understand why insects are not included and also determine how to sustain their inclusion. And, from the aforementioned study, probably do the same for animals intended for human consumption.
This is important because majority of BSF papers discuss the benefits of insect production, but too few have considered the other significant predictor. I wonder if we could make more headway with our campaign if we also confronted the disgustingness factor.
For the moment, earth caviar, anyone? How about some black butter pods? Higa et al. (2021) also found that Americans prefered these names over “black soldier fly larvae”.
But really, “What’s in a name?” Does a black soldier fly by any other name not taste as sweet?
I guess not.
Higa, J. E., Ruby, M. B., & Rozin, P. (2021). Americans’ acceptance of black soldier fly larvae as food for themselves, their dogs, and farmed animals. Food Quality and Preference, 90, 104119.
Romm, Cari. (2014). "The World War II campaign to bring organ meats to the dinner table." The Atlantic 25.
Chelsea Miranda, PhD
Individuals with over 25 years research experience with the black soldier fly. We are passionate about the science behind the black soldier fly and its ability to convert waste to protein.
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