Hey, America: Edible insects just might be the next tasty taboo headed for your plate.
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Gates Foundation: The Story of Food

Walk into a high-end restaurant in Oaxaca, Mexico, and you might see chapulines, or grasshoppers, on the menu.

In Mexico and many countries around the world, it's not unusual to see a variety of bugs on the menu. Chapulines can be served casually, as bar snacks, or as street food, but they also make appearances in more upscale cuisine.

"Plenty of high-end restaurants, especially in Oaxaca, serve chapulines," said Myles Snider, an American cook who trained in Mexico City and has worked in restaurants in Tulum.


Chapulines, served casually as a snack. Image via iStock.

The attitude toward serving insects as food there differs from the United States.

"It's far more normalized here," said Snider. "I think people acknowledge that it's an insect, so they know foreigners might have reservations about eating it, but mostly people just realize that they're delicious."

In the U.S., most of us aren't used to encountering insects on the menu. Could — and should — they become part of our normal fare?

If you're like me, the mere mention of eating bugs triggers an instant reaction of disgust. But what is it about eating bugs, exactly, that we protest?

Disgust is a response that our body uses to prevent us from doing things that are bad for us. We've been taught since we were children that bugs are "yucky," so the idea putting them in our mouths is something that our body naturally rejects.

So it follows that in Western culture, entomophagy (as the pros call it) has developed a stigma associating it with poverty and poor living conditions, since we assume that cultures relying on what we consider "yucky" as a primary source of food must be doing so out of desperation. But that's not so!

The reality is that insects are a regular part of the human diet all over the world, not only in lower socioeconomic strata. They just haven’t really broken the boundary onto the palate of the American people — yet. Insects have a lot to offer, though, so it might be worth considering adding them to your grocery list this week!

See? Simba gets it. GIF via "The Lion King."

Here are 14 things edible insects have going for them, in the U.S. and abroad.

1. It's much easier to farm crickets than it is to farm cows. While livestock require land, feed, and equipment — all of which cost quite a bit — insects are scavengers and can basically subsist on their own.

Entomologist Yupa Hamboosong inspecting crickets raised on a farm in Vientiane, Laos. Photo by Hoang Dinh Ham/AFP/Getty Images.

2. Insect farms can be scaled to any size and can consist of as little as a breathable container, a damp towel, and food scraps or compost. That means that anyone can be an insect farmer, no matter their financial status.

3. Since geography isn't as much of a factor in insect farming, the growth potential for it as an industry isn't limited by location. A boom in insect farming could benefit cities as much as rural areas.

4. Since the food industry is often able to remain relatively stable in times of economic crisis, insect farming could bring increased job reliability to areas that aren't conducive to traditional farming.

5. Adding insects to the global diet could help solve world hunger. Insects are a nutrient-rich source of protein that can be grown locally in any environment — no other livestock product or crop provides the same benefits at such a low cost of maintenance.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

6. Insect farming is environmentally friendly. Since insects require so little to thrive, they place significantly less strain on finite global resources like grain, water, and real estate.

7. Meat production puts a huge strain on the global water shortage; one pound of beef requires nearly 2,000 gallons of water. By contrast, cricket farmers like Big Cricket Farms assert that producing a pound of crickets requires only a single gallon of water.

8. The water footprint of crickets is so small, in fact, that some places like Bitwater Farms are finding it can be met with rainwater alone.

9. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's major report on the topic, insects require less feed than any other animal protein, like cattle and pigs. (This fact has been contested specific to crickets, as a 2015 study found that the feed-to-meat ratio can vary greatly based on crickets' appetites.) Feed-to-meat conversion rates as reflected by the FAO estimate one pound of edible beef requires about nine pounds of feed, while one pound of edible cricket meat needs only about one and a half pounds of feed.

10. Greenhouse gas emissions are significantly lower in insects than in livestock. In a study of farmable insects (mealworms, crickets, locusts, cockroaches, and sun beetles) the insects were found to produce proportionally less carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ammonia than cattle or pigs. By contrast, producing beef has been noted by several scientists to be more harmful to the environment than driving a car. The World Bank calculated in 2010 that producing one kilogram of beef is equivalent to driving 49 miles in a car.

11. Certain types of crickets can have about as much or even up to twice as much protein content as beef, usually with much less fat.

12. Insects can be beneficial as food without ever making it to the human plate, too. Switching to insect-based animal feed to sustain livestock would cut down on the strain that grain production places on land and water resources.

Mealworms, like this little guy, can be easily and efficiently ground into an animal feed that's more enviro-friendly than grain. Herman/Flickr.

13. It's possible to incorporate insects into meals more subtly than simply chomping down on a cicada. Crickets can be ground into a protein flour that can be used in a variety of ways, including baking, as a dietary supplement, or to replace other protein sources like soy.

14. Insect protein has the interest of the start-up world. In 2014, cricket protein bar company Chapul scored a $50K business deal with investor Mark Cuban on "Shark Tank." Other investors are following suit — earlier this year, a similar energy bar company called Exo raised $4 million in its first round of funding.

Crobar is a protein bar made of cricket with cricket flour. Photo by Ton Koene/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP Images.

Insects may be on their way to conquering the world markets, but there's one drawback: Right now, insect protein is still cost-prohibitive for widespread use. Since the number of people farming crickets is still relatively few, the market price of a pound of harvested crickets is still pretty high: A pound costs manufacturers about $4-5. That price would need to fall by about half to make it competitive with livestock meats, soy, and other protein substitutes.

So does this mean our Instagram feeds will soon be full of delectable cricket and grub food creations?

It's possible! Insects aren’t the first food source that were once considered taboo in our country. Raw fish used to strike Americans as disgusting, too — until the sushi craze hit in the 1960s. The exact cause for its rise is unclear, but it’s likely that it had to do with the whirlwind of change that was overtaking a nation ripe for trying new things. The restaurant Kawafuku opened in 1964 and quickly became a Los Angeles hot spot. As celebrities began adopting the “healthy food” trend, sushi appeared in metropolitan cities and eventually made its way across the country.

Could the same thing happen with insects? There's nothing stopping it. Specialty restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago already serve dishes like fried grasshoppers, ant egg salads, and silkworms. And though you won't find them here at street stands or in bars (yet), you don't need to travel to Mexico to get your hands on a chapulín, either — many authentic Mexican restaurants serve the Oaxacan dish stateside.

So while insects still have a ways to go before they conquer the United States, they're definitely gaining traction. Anyone with an adventurous palate and a desire to be ahead of a trend would do well to head to their local entomophagist eatery and try them out. It could be only a matter of time before insects are the next must-have dining experience.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.