Hope you're hungry. As populations continue to grow and global warming makes the land grab for resources more of a concern, researchers from the Netherlands are proposing a creative solution to the world's food problems. A new study, published in the journal PLoS One, suggests that mealworms (the squirmy brown larvae of the mealworm beetle) might help alleviate some of the world's hunger issues.
Researchers found that the production of one kilogram of edible mealworm protein generated significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than comparable amounts of beef, pork, and poultry. Raising mealworms, thanks to their small size and brief life spans, also requires much less land. The larvae take up just 10 percent of the land required to raise and feed cattle, 30 percent of the land needed to raise pigs, and 40 percent of that needed to raise chickens.
What do they taste like? At least one food blogger says mealworms are actually pretty tasty. "When roasted in the oven," reports Abigaile Miller, "mealworms taste just like roasted nuts or seeds." Plus, they're pretty healthy for you: The legless bugs are about 25 percent protein and 12 percent fat.
But will people be willing to give ground-up mealworm protein a chance? Harold Mooney, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment and one of the study's editors, says it'll be a pretty tough sell getting people to change. "The cultural barrier to eating mealworms is pretty high," Mooney tells ABC News. "I really don't think it'll be part of our normal diet anytime soon."
But remember: Tastes can change. "The hope for this entomologist is that bugs will eventually be viewed [the way] sushi is now," says Zack Lemann, chief entomologist at The Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans. "If you had offered me raw fish when I was a kid, I would have looked at you like you were out of your skull. Now it's no big deal. And I hope the same goes for bugs; that they don’t remain as an anathema, but are actually embraced."