Looking for some extra protein in your diet? UC Irvine freshman dining halls have got you covered. From gnats and ants to unidentifiable insects, our students have reported finding these creepy-crawlers in their lunches at the Pippins and Lot 5 Dining Halls (formerly Mesa Commons). Little do they know, in actuality, this is all part of a new initiative to publicize and make known the positive benefits of an insect-rich diet, and subsequently to help UC Irvine students broaden their understandings of what it is like to be a true anteater. Literally.
On the UCI Class of 2018 Facebook page, students have posted photos of bugs found in their pastas and soup.
Mackie Del Mundo, one of the first reported victims, describes, “I went into Pippins for their famous pasta. I sit down and eat a good 70 percent of that delicious pasta and notice an oddly-shaped, lightly toasted, half of a mushroom in the remnants of my creamy Alfredo sauced pasta.
I look closely and flip it to its side and discovered that it wasn’t a fragment of a mushroom, but some disgusting flying (well, of course “non-flying” now) insect! I instantly spit the last remains of chewed pasta I still had in my mouth onto a napkin while my friends laughed. All I could say was, ‘Really?! It’s my birthday! Out of all the days!!’”
Personally, I found dead gnats in my salad on one of my recent trips to the Lot 5 dining hall — a nice, crunchy flavor-booster and a healthy part of a balanced diet. Though I did not mind the gnats, my friends were certainly disgusted by the thought of bugs in their food.
April Habon, a first-year UCI student explains, “I’ve seen the posts on Facebook about people finding bugs in their food and I’m absolutely appalled. Though I have not personally experienced it, who knows? Maybe I’ve been eating ants everyday and I didn’t even know … I’m paying way too much for my meal plan to be worrying about bugs in my food.”
According to recent studies, consumption of insects could potentially become a sustainable protein alternative, replacing livestock as the number one most accessible protein source. “Officials at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recently predicted that beef could become an extreme luxury item by 2050, like caviar, due to rising production costs,” reports Marcel Dicke, a writer for the Wall Street Journal. UC Irvine, being the well-known research university, is always ahead of the curve when it comes to finding new solutions.
It’s a shame that UC Irvine students cannot see the benefits of this new proposal, so I interviewed someone who would.
Peter the Anteater, mascot of UC Irvine expresses, “It makes me really sad to think that my fellow anteaters cannot get used to my type of lifestyle. Ants taste really good to me and I wish they could understand that it really isn’t that gross. Our school is all about diversity and accepting other cultures, and I don’t understand why they cannot accept my culture and my way of life.”
When asked about his thoughts on the the student’s reactions to discovering this extra protein in their diet, he says, “I’m really appalled by the fact that students are squirming and squealing just because they’ve found one little bug in their lunch. All these UCI students say that they are proud to be Anteaters, but do they even understand what that means? Anteaters eat ants. If they can’t even imagine the prospect of eating insects the way they eat cows and chickens, how can they call themselves Anteaters?”
Peter is right. To be a real anteater, we must represent and uphold the culture and traditions of UC Irvine and proudly defend the lifestyle of anteaters. It is time to break out of our comfort zones and experience what it means to be a true anteater.
Consumption of insects is not absurd. Many cultures have been doing so for centuries and creating dishes to enhance the flavors of the bugs. Laos, Thailand and Japan are only a few of the many cultures that consume insects in their diet.
In fact, the FDA legally allows small amounts of insects to be present in consumer goods. For example, macaroni and noodle products are allowed an “average of 225 insect fragments or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples” and beer is allowed 2,500 aphids per 10 grams of insects in hops, according to the FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook.
In response to this, Shannon Chang, a fourth-year sociology major explains, “Honestly, after four years of college, as long as it doesn’t kill me I’ll eat it.”
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Perhaps UC Irvine students are still not ready for the idea of having bugs in their food. Though the benefits of eating insects are undeniable, and the dining halls’ idea to integrate insects into our diets is admirable, perhaps the idea is just too ahead of its time for western cultures. Peter the Anteater might have to wait a couple of decades before students will accept the prospect of insect consumption.
Vanessa Hsia is a first-year French and international studies major. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.