Plant-Based Beer and Bug Burgers: It’s What’s for Dinner

Larry Kudlow, Fox News television personality and pretend economist who plays one on TV, complains about “plant-based beer.”

Big Meat did a collective knee jerk this spring when President Joe Biden proposed a 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions. While cars and coal plants were the chief targets, gross concentrations of cows, pigs, etc., by industrial ag are also major generators of those gases, so the industry and its right-wing media mouthpieces decided to make a preemptive strike by ridiculing Biden.

Leading this offensive was Larry Kudlow, a Fox News television personality who became a top Trump economist, even though — picky, picky — he’s not actually an economist (but he did play one on TV, which in The Donald’s mind is equivalent to having a Ph.D. degree).

“Get this,” Kudlow cackled in April, “America has to stop eating meat… OK, you got that? No, burgers on July 4.” Larry asserted as fact that Biden’s diabolical green agenda would limit Americans to only “one burger per month.” Never mind that Biden’s greenhouse plan mentioned nothing about red meat, much less rationing burgers.

Then, Kudlow doubled down on his calculated ignorance by squawking that — OMG! — Biden’s policy even means that we’ll all be forced to drink “plant-based beer.”

Oh, the tyranny! Apparently, Larry thinks the beer he’s been drinking is made from beef jerky and such, so he was rallying his right-wing circus to storm against Biden, wailing that he was compelling red-blooded Americans to sip brews made with frou-frou vegetarian stuff like grains, hops and water. “This kind of thinking is stupid,” barked Kudlow, inadvertently pointing at himself.

If it’s an alternative protein you truly want, you can’t do better for yourself or the Earth than to order a cricket powder pizza, grasshopper breakfast cereal or a yellow mealworm burger. And if Larry Kudlow is really offended by “plant-based beer,” let him get looped (or loopier) on a keg of robust beetle beer.

Bug Ag is on the move. While our hidebound culture has long viewed arthropods and invertebrates as horrible pests to be exterminated, hundreds of millions of people with less prissy palates have long considered many insects a natural and regular part of their diets. And now, even in our beef and pork country, there’s a boomlet of “edible insect entrepreneurs” emerging. They are farming and processing an abundance of these meaty little critters, turning them into everything from crispy snacks to cake and bread ingredients.

Aside from being surprisingly palatable (I’ve had both grasshoppers and crickets in Mexico), they are safe to eat, rich in protein and other essential nutrients, require little land and water, produce minimal waste and are not big emitters of greenhouse gases. And they certainly are abundant.

There is the “yuck” factor, of course, but eaters and restaurateurs are much more adventurous today, especially among younger people. And remember that slurping down a squishy raw oyster or “sucking the heads” of crawfish (still called “mudbugs” in Louisiana and Texas) was a queasy thought to many Americans just a couple of generations ago — and even luscious, ripe tomatoes were spurned as poisonous when first introduced in Italy and France. So, as demands for a sustainable food supply steadily increase, it’s not far-fetched to think, as one of the new bug-preneurs put it, that “insects will go from niche to normal.”

Jim Hightower