Guess What’s Coming For Dinner?
By Chris Williams on December 29, 2016.
Picture it. A plateful of holiday cookies made with mealworm flour, or a crunchy cricket taco, or an afternoon snack of “Chirps Chips” featuring cricket flour (especially good for those who are going gluten-free). Utilizing insects as a food source is not a new thing for much of the world but it’s still a long way from catching on here in the U.S., despite the ongoing efforts of some.
Believe it or not, there actually are entomophages among us who are looking to put insects on your dining room table. Entomophages are advocates of using insects as food. These are no longer just the colorful, slightly nutty folks interviewed by feature editors for the Sunday paper. These people now have clout and they’re serious. Thirty different organizations have banded together with the same gastronomic goal of getting us to eat insects.
Introducing the North American Edible Insect Coalition
There have always been small-scale insect farmers in this country who have been quietly raising crickets, mealworms, and other insects as bait for fishermen or as reptile food for pet stores. Insect-farming businesses like Big Cricket Farms and Little Herds are now looking to the bigger picture of raising insects as real food for people, and are working to bring their operations up to human food standards.
The mission of the new North American Edible Insect Coalition is to educate potential consumers and to establish best practices for production, packaging, and palatability. Educating consumers on how to properly prepare their store-bought insect goodies is another of the Coalition’s goals. Insects pack a powerful protein and micronutrient punch into a small, low-calorie, often crunchy package. Insects provide more than 10 times as much edible protein from a kilogram of feed as a cow does, and they don’t emit methane. Farming insects leaves a much smaller environmental footprint – even if you do have to multiply by 6!
Insects in Your Food on Purpose
Can you really expect to see insects on your food store’s shelves? Since insects are not a new, untested food ingredient, the government requirements are the same as for other foods: the food must be clean and wholesome, must be produced, packaged, stored and transported under sanitary conditions, and must be properly labeled. It’s actually happening already. You can find insect snacks and insect-based flours in some health food stores and even in Whole Foods Market.
The Coalition will know they are over the hurdle when a big food corporation like General Mills is knocking on their door. One big impediment is production quantity. A big food buyer is looking for 600,000 pounds of crickets a year, minimum. At 1,000 crickets to a pound, that means an insect farmer needs to raise 600 million crickets a year to really go big-time.
Nevertheless, the day of insects for dinner is coming, eventually. Consider that it took Americans decades to accept sushi…and that stuff is not even cooked!