Bug Appetit: Why Eating Cicadas is Good for the Environment

May 13, 2021

Trillions of cicadas are poised to get their buzz on across much of the United States, with the once-every-17-year emergence of Brood X. Hope you’re hungry!

One person’s infestation is another’s free eco-friendly lunch, according to Johns Hopkins University sustainable food expert Jessica Fanzo, author of the forthcoming Can Fixing Dinner Fix the Planet?

Fanzo, who plans to collect and eat cicadas herself as soon as they hit her own backyard, can explain how the insects have as much protein as red or other factory-farmed meat, but without the harsh environmental effects, including greenhouse gases and biodiversity loss.

She can also discuss how insects are already an established source of protein around the world, including in Mexico, where people eat crickets; in Thailand, where people enjoy water bugs; and in Africa where people regularly eat locusts and crickets.

Fanzo, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food Policy and Ethics at the Berman Institute, who has sampled most of the insect dishes of other cultures, believes the shrimp-tasting cicadas of the United States should certainly rank among them, although the North American palate might not be ready.

“There is the yuck factor but people who are looking for alternative sources of animal protein shouldn’t rule out cicadas” she says. “They’re a great natural source of protein and other nutrients, there’s going to be a lot of it in a very short period of time so, it’s a great opportunity to give them a try.

“Once you get over the look of them, they’re quite tasty.”

In Can Fixing Dinner Fix the Planet? Fanzo explores the interactions among food systems, diets, human health, and the climate crisis. Drawing upon her decades of hands-on research projects in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, Fanzo describes how food systems must evolve to promote healthy, sustainable, and equitable diets.