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Ento Box: The Elegant Insect Meal Of The Future

Bugs are high in protein, easy to raise and feed, and … not so great to eat. But what if they were served in a lovely, palatable setting? If six-legged creatures are what we’re eating in 20 years, hopefully the meals look this good.

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Though they’re consumed in most of the world, people in the West tend to be a little squeamish about eating bugs. But a new project from a group of design students in England hopes to put edible insects in a more gourmet light.

Avant-garde chefs have been trying to introduce insect eating for some time, but these students approached the question not as a gastronomical issue, but rather a design one: How do you make bugs more appealing? The answer is the Ento Box (that’s a portmanteau of bento box and entomology). Click through the slide show above to see the elegant way you’ll be eating bug-based foods in the future.

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This isn’t just some tounge-in-cheek project to get us to rethink our narrow palettes. The Western diet, delicious as it is, is problematic for our planet. Giant herds of cattle are not particularly friendly to the environment: Their burps cause climate change and they require large amounts of food that could perhaps be better put to other uses. The farming of pigs is just as bad. And those are just the factual issues, leaving alone the potential ethical problems with eating animals that one may or may not agree with.

On the flipside, the protein-rich diet afforded us by those vast, unsustainable herds of animals is a hallmark of the developed world. What do Indians and Chinese do as they rise to the middle class? Start consuming vastly larger amounts of protein, which requires more giant herds of animals (and a strategic pork reserve). There is little chance of asking the world to go backwards, and the promise of synthetic meat seems a long way off. The best solution for that protein infusion is, of course, insects. Hence, the Ento Box.

This isn’t just an exercise, the students worked with a chef and made real recipes out of real bugs. As the creators, four students at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, write: Bugs are "much more space and energy efficient than traditional livestock and will happily eat the crops we don’t want. They are also high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol, and rich in nutrients like omega-3."

To get all those benefits, they’ve designed the lovely Ento Box, so that instead of chomping down on those grasshoppers pictured above on a plate, we can instead enjoy sustainable protein while not thinking too much about it. They hope, though, that the Ento Box is just a gateway. Their prospective business timeline shows that by 2020, we’ve hopefully done away with the delicacy of having our bugs turned into fancy looking foods, and are instead chowing down on handfuls of grasshoppers. It may be hard to picture, but we may not have a choice.

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