Thailand is no longer the #1 exporter of rice in the world. No problemo. The country now claims that title for exporting bugs. Not due to its infamous sex trade as you may assume, but rather because as a source of protein the world just can’t get enough of the creepy crawlers. Relatively inexpensive to cultivate, edible insects may prove to be the world’s best alternative food supply in the near future. And Thailand is ready to guide the swarm. Today in the kingdom there are about 20,000 bug farms turning out 7,500 tons of crickets, grasshoppers and other critters per year. Insects may not be the choice of cuisine in most developed countries, but among poorer nations they often are a staple in citizen’s daily diet. Even those so poor they can’t afford to raise enough bugs themselves and have to pay Thailand to do it. Even Thai insects are ready and willing to feed the world’s needs that they can’t readily obtain at home.
While in the US, dining on bugs is still not the norm, in Asian countries insects have always shown up on the menu. So visiting Asian Games athletes will feel right at home in South Korea where in late July the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety approved mealworms as safe raw material for food. Apparently the insect industry is big business in South Korea as it is in Thailand, with insect cultivation for pest control, pollinating, and eating hoping to bring $290 million in by the end of next year. And the mealworm has all the health benefits of other meats making it a viable food replacement if you can get past the fact that mealworms are the larva a beetle and look like maggots. But then if you are one of those who thinks pineapple on a pizza is yummy, a bit of larva alongside the anchovies will probably tickle your taste buds too.
South Korea’s National Academy of Agricultural Science and Korean food manufacturer Worldway Co. has all ready begun marketing worms to the masses. Yun Eun-young, a researcher at the state-run academy, was surprised how favorable her company’s initial taste test went with her countrymen. “We already had a public tasting of pizzas, pasta, and a juice made with mealworms,” she said “And to my surprise, responses were pretty good. Many people liked them.”
Like the taste buds of country who introduced kim chee to the world should be used to test market how tasty beetle larva are. But as not delectable as meal worms may be, they are a natural source of minerals and unsaturated fats, and their unit protein content is almost the same as that of beef and chickens and twice as much as pork. South Koreans are no strangers to unusual dishes such as dog soup. horse barbeque, steamed silkworm pupae, and fried grasshoppers. But while mealworms are already eaten in some countries, in the past they have only generally been used as pet food in Korea. But now that the beetle is out of the bag, you can expect to see a McMealworm showing up on the local McDonald’s menus soon.
[‘The XVII Asiad’ are a series of posts about hot competitors and general articles about the 2014 17th Asian Games of interest to gay men. So, yeah, lots of hot male eye candy. Click the XVII Asiad’ graphic below for additional news, stories, and pictures.]