Eating bugs? That's the kind of thing we like to talk about in our Foodtech team.
Picture the ideal superfood; one with an awesome lineup of health benefits – twice as much protein as beef or chicken, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach. On top of that, it’s organic, GMO free, low calorie, high in fiber, full of vitamins and minerals, and contains all nine essential amino acids.
While this food might seem a bit far-fetched, in fact, it already exists. Not only is it healthy, its production is cheap, efficient, and sustainable. This new type of food may seem exciting and groundbreaking, but it’s actually not new. In reality, you have heard them, chirping away on a warm summer night. That’s right, the protein powder of the future is made of cricket flour.
Yup, bugs. Nom nom nom, right?
Who knew crickets could be so healthy and delicious? It turns out, many civilizations have been eating insects for thousands of years. In fact, an estimated 80 countries around the globe rely on insects as one of their primary sources of protein. So why does entomophagy (the practice of eating insects) seem so foreign to Westerners? The answer may lie in the history of agriculture and animal domestication. Originally, owning and raising livestock offered a whole suite of benefits to early civilizations, including meat, milk products, warmth in the form of leather or wool, plowing efficiency, and transportation. Now that Western cultures have evolved away from livestock in lieu of more sustainable and efficient products, it’s time to do the same with food.
The primary environmental benefits of cricket protein focus on the amount of water involved in Western food production. Take beef for instance; the 5oz serving of meat on your plate has roughly 20 grams of protein, and took more than 500 gallons of water to produce. In contrast, a meal with a 70 gram serving of cricket flour has 46 grams of protein, and takes .04 gallons of water in production. On top of water use, crickets convert feed to protein extremely efficiently, requiring 12 times less feed than beef for the same protein output. With increasing water consciousness and population growth (it is estimated that the world population will reach 8.5 billion by 2030), farming alternatives that save water while providing nutrient-rich foods are becoming more and more important.
Bit by bit, people are catching on. Companies like Impossible Foods and Memphis Meats are specializing in alternative ingredients are sprouting up left and right, and cricket protein is following at their heels.
One company making waves in the snack market is Chirps Chips. Chirps mission is to destigmatize the consumption of insects and get people excited about eating bugs by adding cricket flour to everyday snacks, like chips and cookies. The founders met at Harvard, and together began to explore their interest in sustainable, alternative foods. Chirps take chips to the next level, expanding on traditional recipes and adding 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving.
Another company making waves is Exo Protein Bars. Made with premium ingredients, Exo bars are gluten, soy, and dairy free with no refined sugars. The founders were studying at Brown University when they set out on a quest to make a tasty, healthy snack with insect ingredients. Eventually pairing with a three-Michelin-starred chef, Kyle Connaughton, they now offer paleo-friendly protein bars in flavors ranging from banana bread to PB&J.
Together, these companies are part of the growing initiative to improve the sustainability of our food production industry. Cricket protein comes in many forms, and several companies are trying to win over American consumers by making products that mask the taste of the cricket flour in everyday snacks. As more and more people discover these products and taste how delicious they are, the qualms they feel about eating bugs will slowly disappear. So when the day comes that you find cricket products at your local market (and that day will be soon), challenge yourself to try a tasty chip or protein bar - you might just like it.
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