Accepted Paper:

From foe to food: entomophagy and the adoption of edible insects  


Laura Shine (Concordia University)

Paper short abstract:

Edible insects are increasingly promoted as a 'green' protein, and their sensory benefits are often used to market them. But in many Western cultures, they face considerable obstacles which go far beyond issues of sensory appreciation, as perceived food inappropriateness still hinders adoption.

Paper long abstract:

To address a looming protein gap as the world's population increases to 9 billion in 2050, many advocacy groups, notably the FAO, are promoting entomophagy - eating insects - as an environmentally sound alternative to conventional resource-intensive cattle or pig rearing.

In many cultures of the world, insects are already an important part of the human diet; close to 2000 species are regularly consumed in 113 countries . European, Canadian and American populations, however, generally express an extremely strong negative reaction - even genuine disgust - to the idea of eating insects. Most would consider them a starvation food, an attitude that is unique historically and cross-culturally.

Using edible insects as a case study, my research thus asks how culturally-constructed negative reactions to unusual foods can evolve and be transformed. In this presentation, I will examine some of the ways in which insects are making their way to Western plates, as well as the challenges they face in terms of acceptance - challenges that surpass matters of taste and accessibility.

Indeed, such partial stances as the promotion of sensory pleasure or environmental benefits do not take into account the full spectrum of issues related to insect consumption, which include perceived food appropriateness, cultural determinants of food choice, assessment of physical and symbolic risk, cultural appropriateness and appropriation, systemic discrimination and colonization dynamics, nature conservation, preservation of traditional food cultures, food security, and potential economic development associated to entomophagy.

Panel LL-FWF05
Taste in motion: movement, placement, and localization of new food and beverages in the past and present