Crickets baked into cookies.

© Daniel Higgins/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Save the world — eat a bug

October 30, 2018 - 1:17 pm
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By Rasa Kaye

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — How many of you eat insects as part of a well-rounded diet?

*Crickets.*

No pun intended about hearing crickets, but asking that question at almost any gathering in the U.S. isn’t likely to result in a flurry of recipe-sharing. More than a quarter of the world’s population — about 2 billion people — eat insects, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“Insects are eaten in 80 percent of the world,” said Joey Leroux of Chirps Chips, a tortilla-type chip made from the afore-mentioned crickets and sold in organic markets across the Philadelphia area. “America is really late in the game in terms of it being a part of our cuisine.”

Eating insects, or entomophagy, is an ancient practice, and in heavily agricultural subcontinents, bugs have been an excellent nutrient source, especially when the maize crop would get devastated by drought or, ahem, insects. (When they eat the crops, they replace the crops! Oh, the irony.)

Real talk, though, insects as a food source for humans is considered sustainable protein and is getting increasing attention from modern nutritionists, environmentalists and business leaders.

Edible bugs are abundant — there are 659 recorded species of yummy beetles alone — and they reproduce and grow quickly, using far fewer resources than animal farming requires.

Per the Chirps Chips folks, crickets use 2,000 times less water than beef and contain more iron than spinach and more B12 than salmon. Low in fat and high in amino acids, bugs also produce a fraction of the greenhouse gases that agriculture and livestock do.

“Insects are in the billions. They’re all over the world and they’re easily harvested,” said James Shafie of Mom’s Organic Market in Bryn Mawr, which offers an array of bug-based products. “People who try them kind of like them — there’s no reason not to eat them. We eat lobsters and crabs, which are very similar. Sustainable protein can be a very good source of nutrition for people who don’t have access to protein otherwise.”

In this country, though, we have easy access to protein, so entomophagy proponents have to work to get us over the “yuck” factor.  

Leroux said he has been offering insect snack samples at events around the area, and visitors to environmentally-themed celebrations have been gingerly nibbling the crispy treats. The cricket chips look and, to most palates, taste like a tortilla chip.

“You can have them with a beer, because crickets kind of have a nutty flavor,” Leroux advised, “so they make a nice bar snack.”

Leroux also recommended the whole-roasted crickets, which look unnervingly exactly like whole crickets.

“Some people say they taste kind of like popcorn, so think about them like a snack at the movies.” He likes those or whole-roasted grasshoppers in tacos, too.

“The great thing about insects is that they can be ground up into a powder and added to a lot of things, much like a protein powder. We have a Bolognese sauce, power bars with insects,” Shafie added. “Insects are completely edible so you can eat the whole thing and they’re packed with protein, which is necessary for you to go on with your day- to-day life.”