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The 30-day worm and cricket diet


A US student has just spent 30 days on a “bug diet” – eating insects three times a day. Camren Brantley-Rios says traditional meats such as pork and beef are unsustainable – and he wanted to try out what many consider the diet of the future.

“For dinner I had mealworm fried rice. It was pretty good. I seasoned the mealworms with soy sauce and threw them in.”

Many people would find the idea of eating grubs and insects distasteful, if not repulsive. Not so long ago Brantley-Rios was among them. But for the last month he has been eating insects for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“I’m mainly sticking to three species,” he says. “Mealworms, waxworms and crickets. Those are definitely the bulk of my diet.

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Silkworm pupae wasn’t my favourite by any means”

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Camren Brantley-Rios

“But I’m trying here and there to incorporate things a little bit more exotic.”

Scrambled eggs with waxworms, bug-burgers with cheese, creole crickets – these are just everyday meals.

Occasionally he has branched out to include different insects – such as the orange-spotted cockroach. Preparing these he “actually cried”, though he insists they were surprisingly good.

“You take off the legs, the wings, and the pronotum – the shell that’s covering the head. I just sauted them with different herbs, mushrooms and onions. It was a little bit tangy. It wasn’t weird at all.”

Other experiments haven’t ended so well.

“Silkworm pupae wasn’t my favourite by any means,” Brantley-Rios admits, “they stank.”

Insects consume fewer resources than mammals to produce the same amount of protein, Brantley-Rios says – and more than two billion people worldwide include insects in their regular diet, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

But insect cuisine remains a niche pursuit in the US.

“There’s not really a need to eat bugs in America because we have it so nice,” Brantley-Rios says.

“We have finer meats and we’re lucky to have that luxury, so there’s not much of a pressure to eat bugs right now. But what a lot of people are trying to do is make it a little bit more marketable.”

He had to turn to the internet to find his ingredients.

“There aren’t too many human-grade bug farms,” he says.

He has ordered insects from farms that usually supply zoos, which need them “to feed the reptiles and things like that”.

He has always made sure the insects have been fed on an organic diet, he says, and only bought species he knows are safe to eat.

“I’m not going out into the forest and foraging around. There’s definitely a risk with that,” he says.

“This is me calling up different farms and placing an order for however many bugs I think I might need. And then it gets here in the mail.”

He knows that one person eating insects won’t make much difference. To have a real environmental impact, millions would have to follow his example.

So has he converted anyone?

Among his friends, yes.

“I’m not forcing it down their throats or anything,” he says.

“A lot of my friends who I didn’t expect to eat bugs are asking to do it too.”

Camren Brantley-Rios spoke to Weekend on the BBC World Service. Listen again on iPlayer or get the Weekend podcast.

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