Well Being

Today’s Gross Health News: Hamburgers Could Soon Be Made Out Of Mealworms

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shutterstock_95611843If you've been thinking about going vegetarian, this might just make the decision a bit easier: Researchers in the Netherlands have proposed that mealworms–you know, that gross wriggly beetle larvae–could be the next alternative to poultry, beef and pork. Meaning, hamburgers and other “meats” could be made out of worms–not cows, pigs or chickens.

Why is this being proposed? It comes down to environmental issues, according to the researchers. In a world where the population continues to grow, global warming is a major concern and natural resources are limited, they believe that insects, which are lower down in the food chain, can provide just as much protein but in a more responsible and  environmentally friendly way.

Apparently, the mealworms were found to release less greenhouse gas into the environment than conventional livestock. They also take up less space. In fact, in order to grow the insects for food, they require just 10% of the land needed to raise and feed cattle, and just 30% and 40% of the land needed to raise pigs and chicken, respectively, for the same amount of protein.

In a statement, researcher Dennis Oonincx at Wageningen University in the Netherlands explains:

Since the population of our planet keeps growing, and the amount of land on this Earth is limited, a more efficient, and more sustainable system of food production is needed. Now, for the first time it has been shown that mealworms, and possibly other edible insects, can aid in achieving such a system.

All of this is interesting and an admirable way to think about saving the environment. But still. Mealworms? Can that really work?

Yes, says entomologist Brian Fisher at the California Academy of Sciences:

These questions they're addressing are really relevant to sustainability—this is very exciting work. This addresses how we're going to grow food in a way that doesn't jeopardize how our children and their children live, and offers another reason why we should explore insects as a protein source.

Good points. Although, admittedly, the idea of eating mealworms is just gross. But, as Fisher said, it's really no different than other animals we may consume:

We need to promote a campaign along the lines of, ‘If it's okay to eat sushi, it's okay to eat insects. If you eat lobster, eating insects is pretty much the same thing.

For me, I'll be sticking with the plant-based sources of protein, like quinoa, lentils, beans and tempeh.

How many of you would try a hamburger made from mealworms?

Photo: shutterstock.com