A Dutch entomologist has seen the future of food, and–surprise!–it’s not where or what you might think it would be. “The Netherlands,” the professor says, “wants to be in the forefront of food.”

He’s talking about waaay out there–all the way to buffalo worms, locusts, caterpillars, crickets, and other insects for human consumption. Just as the American West had its cowboys, this new food world will have bugboys wrangling great herds of crawling and squirming critters to market.

A ranch of creepers and crawlers might not have quite the same romantic appeal as a cattle ranch, but many bugs pack a protein punch that is healthier than steak and far lighter on the environment. So let’s all gather around the campfire and sing: “Oh give me a home, where buffalo worms roam, and the crickets and caterpillars play.”

Insect edibles are a traditional and common source of protein in Japan, Mexico, Botswana, and elsewhere. They’re now appearing in Dutch supermarkets and restaurants. Thinking big, a coalition of insect breeders and farmers has formed a trade group to promote the product and help set health standards for raising and selling it.

To help overcome the “yuck” factor, a major Dutch supermarket recently offered a sampling of such items as mealworms in chocolate, “bug nuggets,” and crispy whole crickets for snacking. As the entomologist put it, Europeans’ instinctive rejection of biting into a bug is “an acquired abhorrence” and adds that “children have no problem eating them.” He predicts that it will only take four or five years for consumers to buy into the insect future.

Bug cuisine would be good for the environment and for trimming our grocery bills. Instead of spraying their yards and gardens with assorted doses of pesticides, people can just reach for the cooking oil.

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