For century’s humans have eaten insects, in fact, eighty percent of the world still does. Markets all over the world, especially in China, boast delicious combinations of fried and crispy bugs. Yet, westerners’ recoil at the mere thought of them. Why? Are we scared of the creepy crawlies? Or perhaps we associate them to death and decay, despite our voracious appetite for other bottom feeders like crabs that tells us otherwise.
Maybe if we knew the environmental benefits of eating bugs we might reconsider. So let’s take a look at Crickets. Not only are crickets made up of 69 percent protein (dry weight), which is more than the equivalent amount found in chicken, steak or pork, but they also require only one-twelfth the amount of feed that cattle do. They reproduce faster and don’t take up as much space as traditional livestock (an estimated one third of the earth’s landmass is used for livestock). Only one gallon of water is required to produce a pound of insect protein, versus nearly two thousand gallons to produce a pound of beef. On top of all this, the usual suspects of our currently exploding population and the rising cost of food gives renewed energy to the need to find a new sustainable protein source.
Now I’m not asking us to drop everything and start chowing down on crunchy cricket legs; there is an easier, more digestible way. This comes in the form of cricket powder, which limits the ick factor. Gabi Lewis and Greg Sewitz of Exo (as in exoskeleton) discovered this in their dorm room at Brown, when they created their first protein bars from cricket flour. After freezing, roasting and grinding their crickets, they added various other healthy treats – honey, dates, cocoa, almonds etcetera. Exo have now raised over one million dollars in funding and are currently experimenting with other cricket flour based products, so watch this space, it may be cricket flour pizza dough or milkshakes next.
Equally, others are helping to normalise entomophagy, which is the technical term for the consumption of ‘mini-livestock’; the chapulin taco by Jose Andres has risen to fame in Washington DC , a company called 'Ento' champions caterpillar sushi and a bug chef - Zack Lemann - sells fried dragonflies in New Orleans.
The quicker the trend catches on the better. Many of the barriers to entry are simply cultural and with some creative rebranding eating insects could follow in the footsteps of sushi, a food that was quickly normalised throughout the western world.