Food Trends

College student plans to eat bugs for 30 days—and hopes you will, too

Garlic butter "shrimp" pasta with crickets.

Garlic butter "shrimp" pasta with crickets.  (Camren Brantley-Rios, 30 Days of Bugs)

A loaded ant scramble for breakfast. Mealworm chow mein for lunch. Crispy cricket tacos for dinner.

These are just some of the dishes Camren Brantley-Rios, an Auburn University student, has been whipping up as a part of his “30 Days of Bugs” challenge.

“My favorite way to cook crickets is with chili powder or taco seasoning-- I love Mexican food so seasoned crickets with lime juice works with all of my favorite foods,” Brantley-Rios told via email. “I feel like crickets are the more 'Westerner-friendly' insect as far as popular culture.”

In addition to crickets, the PR major says wax worms and maggots are both really versatile ingredients and can be added on anything from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to chili.

In the U.S., insects are slowly gaining traction as an alternative to traditional proteins like beef and chicken. Environmentalists have touted the fact that it takes much less energy to farm bugs—and its cheaper-- than cows, pigs chickens. Nutritionists say they are high in protein and fiber, and low in fat. In many parts of the world, crickets and meal worms aren’t really considered “alternative” at all.

In the U.S., they're slowly becoming more mainstream. Crispy sautéed grasshoppers-- or chapulin-- can be found on the menu at many traditional Mexican restaurants like The Black Ant in New York City. And in 2013, the United Nations released a report encouraging people to incorporate more insects into their diet.

Looking to eat more insects? Brantley-Rios says he sources his bugs from farms recommended by Daniela Martin, author of “Edible.” Martin is one of the foremost proponents of the American entomology movement.

While eating insects may sounds difficult to stomach for some, Brantley-Rios says that his friends have been encouraging of his 30 day effort—with most of them eager to try his dishes. 

“All my friends have been a phenomenal source of encouragement for me,” Brantley-Rios says. About a third of the way through his challenge, he says he’s already gotten used to the bugs and doesn’t consider it a struggle at all. 

Though he admits it may be some time before bug-eating is entirely mainstream in Western societies, he hopes his challenge will bring attention to the concept—and lift the veil on any stigma it may have.

“I hope that at some point schools will incorporate insect proteins into their offerings.”