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Last Chance Foods: Eat a Cricket, Save the Planet

Friday, May 16, 2014

For Rose Wang, it all started with a scorpion street snack in China. She bit into the insect on a dare and was surprised.

“[It was] not what I expected,” says Wang, who went on to co-found the insect-based food company Six Foods with her Harvard classmates Laura D’Asaro and Meryl Natow. “It tasted really great and really made me think, ‘Okay, is there another way to eat protein that’s more sustainable?’” 

In particular, the entrepreneurs see crickets as a more sustainable source of protein. For one thing, the little chirpers are far less energy-intensive to raise. Here’s how the math breaks down: One pound of beef requires 2,000 gallons of water and 25 bags of feed. By comparison, one pound of cricket protein can be produced with 1 gallon of water and 2 bags of feed.  

“What’s so great about crickets is that it’s an animal protein, so it’s all nine essential amino acids,” Wang adds. “It’s also really high in calcium and a lot of other vitamins and minerals.”

She says the taste might even be vaguely familiar. “The way I describe it is [that] it tastes like shrimp without a fishy taste, so it is somewhat similar to a lot of the crustaceans that we’re used to eating,” Wang explained. “There is a difference in flavor profile, but it’s not bad.”

(Photo: "Chirp" cricket chips/Courtesy of Rose Wang)

While most everyone can agree that insects are the more environmentally friendly version of protein, there’s still the inescapable ick factor. The founders of Six Foods found that crickets presented people with the lowest barrier to entry. “When we presented people with different foods at the very beginning… we had mealworms, wax worms, hornworms, and then crickets… crickets were always the least scary,” Wang says.

Daniella Martin, the author of Edible: An Adventure Into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet, agrees. “Crickets are familiar, they have a reasonably good public image because of characters like Jiminy Cricket,” she says. “People are a lot less grossed out by something like a cricket versus something like a meal worm.”

Six Foods has gone one step further to make crickets into a non-scary, recognizable form: chips. The cricket chips, called “Chirps,” are made from cricket flour.

(Photo: Rose Wang and Laura D'Asaro)

Cute names and novelty aside, crickets could also be the most viable form of edible insects. “Crickets are also the only insect that’s produced at scale within the U.S.,” says Wang. “To us, if we can ease our supply chain and make sure we know where we’re getting our crickets from and we can go visit those farms and know exactly their process, that makes us feel better about the food that we’re using.”

What do you think? Have you ever eaten a bug and liked it? Could crickets and other insects be the protein source to save the planet?

Guests:

Rose Wang

Hosted by:

Amy Eddings

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Comments [5]

snap dag

we did the whole eat a cricket thing a few years ago when the family ranch out west was overrun w billions of crickets. a meal of chocolate covered crickets, sautéed crickets, etc. -- we were all game. We all got sick to our stomachs! Tasted like grass.

Love the attitude of this entrepreneur. But just because folks find crickets less gross than worms does not eat they will therefore purchase cricket-based food. I would suggest a mix of critters -- I would call it something like "Forest Mix." As an experienced cricket eater now, I would have appreciated a bit of flesh and fat that a meal worm promises…

May. 17 2014 09:35 PM
Bobby

Ah, I see -- if you go vegetarian you will likely end up protein deficient (I think she means iron?). The absurdity of this argument is worthy of an entirely separate article. I wish she had offered a better citation than "my friend," because there is compounding evidence that vegetarian live healthier, longer lives. Even without eating crickets.

May. 17 2014 10:26 AM
Alexandra from Brooklyn

I ate crickets in Brooklyn at Taco Santo. They were possibly fried or baked, covered in a spicy flavoring.. they wee just fine! Tasted like spicy popcorn.. they had a nice crunch. You need to pick a lil leg out of your teeth sometimes.. but no different really than picking out a kernel shell. I even asked for a container to bring home with me. I am mostly vegetarian, eating meat about once a month.. so I appreciated the extra protein, while not having to support torturous factory farming. I'm am so down with America getting on board the cricket train.

May. 16 2014 07:56 PM
Brant MacDuff from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

I LOVE bugs! Crickets, scorpions, mealworms, they're all great, I don't get how people can eat McDonalds and think bugs are gross. For the most part I've found they don't have much of any flavor, just a pleasant crispness. I like to pan fry a selection of the above with a bit of olive oil and garlic salt then sprinkle them on a big cheese pizza.

May. 16 2014 06:07 PM
Laura from NYC

I ate fried crickets at the night market in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They were highly seasoned and then deep fried, so the flavor was completely of the seasoning and the frying. There was a definite crunch, but it was not unpleasant. I would eat them again, but larger insects are probably not something I would want to taste. The squish factor is just not appealing.

May. 16 2014 06:00 PM

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Last Chance Foods covers produce that’s about to go out of season, gives you a heads up on what’s still available at the farmers market and tells you how to keep it fresh through the winter.

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