December 14, 2018

Thought Leader: Insects as food throughout human evolution

Julie Lesnik

Although they are consumed worldwide to this day, insects are not usually considered food in Western society. With a primary interest in the evolution of the human diet, specifically entomophagy, or eating insects, Julie Lesnik, assistant professor of anthropology, seeks to enlighten with her research. Tying together ancient history with our modern lives, Lesnik points out that insects are highly nutritious and a very sustainable protein alternative. She believes that if today’s humans accept that edible insects are a part of our legacy, we may have new conversations about what is good to eat — both in past diets and for the future of food.

“From an early age, we tell children, ‘Don't put insects in your mouth,’ and then it sticks. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with eating insects if they're cleaned, cooked, and produced for human consumption.”

— Julie Lesnik, NPR, July 2018

Julie Lesnik is a renowned anthropologist whose expertise includes:

  • Evolution of the human diet
  • Edible insects

Lesnik recently released her book, Edible Insects and Human Evolution, which reconstructs what insect consumption likely looked like across human evolution. She continues to do work in south and east Africa reconstructing the role of insects in the hominid diet. In 2016, Lesnik coordinated a first-of-its-kind conference in the United States — Eating Insects Detroit: Exploring the Culture of Insects as Food and Feed — that drew attendees and media attention from around the world.

Selected media clips:

View her complete faculty profile here.