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One McBug Burger Please: Eating insects in ecology class to contextualize climate change discussion

Ecosystem services associated with invertebrates might include soil aeration by earthworms, pollination by bees or habitat provision by coral reefs. However, we do not typically list provision of food and lessening inputs of greenhouse gasses (GHG) among the positive benefits that invertebrates, particularly insects, supply to our environment. Inspired both by a Top Chef Master’s episode and a recent PLoS One article, I introduced my students to the emerging trend of entomophagy, or eating insects. Despite the reliance of many cultures on insects, a culinary bias seems to exist among North Americans, including college students. To provide context, students read and critiqued Oonincx et al. (2010) and discovered that five species of insects exhibited a higher relative growth rate and emitted much lower amounts of GHG than described in literature for cattle. We then “tested” the hypothesis that invertebrates could provide an alternative, yet still tasty, protein source. During class, students watched video clips about entomopaghy. All students tasted roasted crickets done two ways (candied spice or chocolate dipped). Most showed a sense of adventure and ate pancakes made from dried mealworms (i.e. beetle larvae). A few braver students voluntarily tried earthworm sliders with a portabella mushroom base. Everyone described the foods as “edible” although sometimes questionable as to appeal. I followed up with a final exam essay asking students whether they foresaw “McBug” burgers in their future. Although first apprehensive, I believe that students enjoyed and learned from discussing the intersection of entomophagy and climate change.
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Primary or BEN resource type
Secondary resource type
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords insects, environment, greenhouse gases, protein, entomophagy
Key taxa insects, invertebrates
Intended End User Role
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Description Discussion of this primary literature article coupled with some easy culinary applications provides for a dynamic discussion of the future of food resources and climate change
Primary Author Controlled Name
Primary Author Affiliation Southwestern University
Department of Biology
1001 East University Avenue
Georgetown, TX 78626
Primary Author email
Submitter Name Romi Burks
Submitter Email
Rights Websites where noted
Date Of Record Submission 2011-11-24

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