In effort to avoid wandering around the store aimlessly by my wife, I picked up this months issue of Popular Science to peruse while waiting to purchase my pizza lunchables and spaggetti O’s. Midway through the issue, I came upon an article entitled “The Incredible Edible Insect” (Wired ran a similar article 2 years ago), that caused me to question the future of agriculture, ranching, and the life that I so dearly loved. It read:
“the global population, now at more than 7 billion, may grow to 9 billion by 2050. Already, nearly 1 billion people regularly go hungry. Insects–a source of protein that requires a fraction of the land, water, and feed as livestock–could help alleviate the looming crisis.”
Insects are the future of agriculture…which hardly makes sense because since the beginning of time they have been the bane of agriculture. Exodus reads differently if Moses is “bringing in the herd” (Exodus 10.1-20); the day of the Lord is less menacing and more all-you-can-eat buffet (Joel 2); and John the Baptist is only slightly less peculiar (Matthew 3.4) They devastated crops and land, leaving bareness in their wake and now we’re supposed to be raising them/
Should it prove true, that grasshoppers and insects prove to be the world’s solution to protein, what would become of cowboys? It’s not like they are going to become extinct. Cowboys are like cockroaches, they adapt, survive, and overcome. A pack of hotdogs, coffee, and a saddle is all that is needed for survival. Some can rub two pennies together and get a hundred dollar bill (Lucas Littles, Doug Reser) and others can do the same and end up with one penny (Me); but the story remains the same, the cowboy way of life isn’t in danger of dying, but think of how this insect thing could change it.
- In terms of land use, three acres in Eastern Kansas would feed a cow…but how many grasshoppers. You could pack’em tight. That old saying “make your fence bull strong, horse high, and chicken tight” would have to be changed, but after all it is an old saying and old sayings sometimes need revision.
- Working stock. The cowboy’s choice of tools has traditionally been a lariat, but like I said earlier, Cowboys are nothing if not flexible. A butterfly net might not look as punchy, harder to attach to a saddle, and not as cool to do tricks with, but it can be just as handy. It’s going to be tougher to look cool and a little more humbling, but I can catch butterflies better than I can rope calves.
- Winters are hard on cattle herds (and I preface this by saying I’m not an entomologist), it seems like winters would be even harder on a grasshopper ranch. Feed bills would be lower, but all your stock would be dead so there really isn’t any headway.
- I wonder how much priority will be placed on free range vs cage reared grasshoppers. Could one really tell the difference between a wild locust and a bug zoo locust? I bet you never hear someone say: “that grasshopper was delectable…not gamey like the free range one I had the other day. I mean the stress placed on the free range type really reduced the marbling of the thorax!”. I bet you never catch the comment: “I only eat the free range ones after that bad experience I had with the hoppers from the jif jars.”
- FFA will have to now include insect judging. Instead of looking at cow and determining desirable breeding qualities, there will have to be 14 students huddled around a six legged insect trying to determine if the grasshopper is knock-knee’d. Who wants to listen to that debate. “I felt like locust one had a tendency to paddle with its front end because of its pigeon-toe-ed-ness” or “This locust will never be sound because it’s hind legs are too vertical” would be the standard arguments. See how silly this sounds.
Changes may be in store and I don’t know if grasshoppers will replace cattle in the future as the major source of protein to Americans, but I do know this: the second Doug Reser purchases bug zoo’s, I’m goin’ all in!