Yes, bugs. And no, we’re not kidding.
Aly Moore, co-founder and COO of Spylight, is a successful entrepreneur with a Master’s in Public Health from Yale University who is trying to promote eating insects as a healthier, more sustainable food alternative. Her newest business venture, Bugible, helps companies working with edible insects tell their stories, build their brands and communicate with generations of future bug-eaters to build a sustainable food supply. SPOILER ALERT: her case is compelling.
JN: How hard was it for you to start consuming insects? Any tips on getting past the initial wave of revulsion?
AM: On some level, I think I’ve always known that I would end up eating insects one day. As a kid, I got super hungry whenever that Timon & Pumbaa scene came on during The Lion King. In all seriousness, I first became seriously interested in edible insects after a summer I spent building health clinics in Mexico. There, we would eat tacos from these stands open late. My favorites were chapulines tacos, or grasshopper tacos.
I’ve always been adventurous, and, for me, this was just another food to try. When I returned home, however, my curiosity compelled me to investigate why I’ve never seen bugs on the menu elsewhere in the States. I soon learned about the burgeoning movement of entomophagy (the fancy word for eating bugs), but noticed that there were few sources to obtain information about the movers and shakers in the field. Thus I started bugible.com to educate myself and others on the topic of edible bugs.
It was not hard for me to start consuming bugs because I’ve always been pretty adventurous. I can see how the concept is initially a challenge for most cultures not accustomed to the idea. But feeding people products made WITH insects (the trojan horse strategy, if you will) is proving successful. Instead of eating a whole cricket, a consumer would be likely to eat a protein bar or pasta made with insects as ingredients.
JN: Why eat bugs?
AM: Eighty percent of countries already eat insects. Insects are full of protein. For a comparable amount of protein, crickets have more Calcium, Iron, B12, Zinc, Vitamin A and other micronutrients than beef. They also have less fat.
Not only are insects healthy and nutritious for humans, they’re healthy for the environment. They require less water, land, and feed to raise than other traditional livestock. The global population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 and I see insects as a great source of healthy, sustainable protein for the future. I want to be a part of the journey getting Western cultures on board.
JN: Why should a vegetarian or vegan eat insects?
AM: I actually have an old blog post that touches on this! People have many different reasons for their decision to be a vegan or vegetarian, but if the ultimate goal of a vegan is to reduce the harm done to animals, then an exclusively plant-based diet is not the answer.
Here’s the dilemma: vegans don’t eat animals, insects are animals, so vegans don’t eat insects. The end. But this overly simple syllogism does not entertain the very real possibility that vegans, by the nature of their quest to reduce animal suffering, may not only be permitted to eat insects—they may be obligated to do so:
This is the agricultural reality that we all too often ignore. The more vegans replaced plant-based calories with insect-based calories, the fewer animals they’d end up harming. This is the vegan’s dilemma.
JN: Tell me about the events you host.
AM: I’ve learned that one of the biggest impacts I can have is leveraging my position in LA and my job running Spylight.com to educate the public about entomophagy.
I’ve held a few private dinners where I invite interested members of the community over for a bug feast. These are exciting and help me learn more about how people respond to different presentations and tastes. I’m hosting a big wine and insect pairing with V Wine Room at the end of October to raise awareness about the complex flavor profiles of insects.
We’ll showcase the diversity in flavors: a scorpion is basically a land lobster and pairs very well with a more acidic Sauvignon Blanc, while silk worms can have an earthy umami flavor and pair nicely with a full bodied Zinfandel. The tasting will not be for everyone, but those that come with an open mind and empty stomach are in for a treat.
JN: Do chefs and restaurants already cook with insects?
AM: Yes! Copenhagen’s gourmet restaurant Noma (ranked Best Restaurant in the World in 2012 and 2014) is known for its copious use of insects in all varieties of dishes. Locally, Typhoon of Santa Monica has been serving insects for years. This concept is not new.
JN: Are all bugs delicious?
AM: I absolutely LOVE scorpions. I like them dehydrated and salted up a bit… they remind me of salmon jerky. I tell my friends to think of scorpions as land lobsters. I really like preparing them with plantains (but not for a wine pairing). For the wine pairing, we’ll be doing a standard seasoned scorpion with an acidic Sauvignon Blanc.
Jim is an internationally published, award-winning photographer based in Los Angeles. His interest in photography began as a young child, when his father—James Newberry, who founded the photography department at Columbia College Chicago—gave him a camera and taught him how to use it. He later graduated from Columbia, and soon after began shooting assignments for magazines and record labels.
Jim continues to shoot for editorial and commercial clients, as well as shooting fine art photography, especially street pictures.