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During the recent fallout over Starbuck's use of cochineal extract (crushed bugs) as a food coloring in their strawberry Frapuccinos, many people became outraged over unwittingly drinking bugs. Some were upset over the "gross factor" but we believe the problem was mainly in the mislabeling of these products as vegan.
While we believe in transparency and are pleased that Starbucks has shifted to a new vegan dye, we have to wonder if bugs would really be that bad.
From an ethical standpoint, it's hard to argue against eating bugs if you have ever killed a bug in your house. Even the most empathetic people would usually opt for killing roaches instead of allowing a swarm to invade their living spaces. That said, many would also say that they would only kill bugs if absolutely necessary. It's not necessary to eat bugs, or is it?
We are currently experiencing a global food shortage which will only worsen with global warming. Bugs provide a plentiful, sustainable source of protein and nutrients. Compared to traditional food sources, they are inexpensive, abundant and extremely nutritious. Though bugs are not everyone's answer to the food shortage, their increased use could help to provide greater supply of food and less production and consumption of traditional meats.
Aside from food shortage, bugs are also a byproduct of shifting to a more organic food supply. Foods that are grown outside will innately contain some bugs. In fact, the FDA allows food to be sold with up to 250 insect parts in some products. You can find bugs in mushrooms, peanut butter, spinach and many other organic and processed foods. So even though we may not want to eat bugs, we probably already do.
While eating bugs is still not vegan, it may be a healthy exception to make now and then. It's ultimately up to each individual to gauge his or her comfort level with this food both ethically and aesthetically. We do feel however that insects as a food source are worth a second look. Just try not to get too grossed out while you are looking.