Two billion people eat insects and you can too

Insects are delicious, nutritious - and they're also highly sustainable. Will a new food trend soon be upon us?

Parivartan Sharma/Reuters/File
An Indian Myna holds a grasshopper in its beak to feed chicks in a nest built inside the wall of an underpass in Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi (June 8, 2012).

Edible insects have long been a part of the human diet and are commonly consumed as a food source in many regions of the world, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is estimated that two billion people currently consume insects as part of their diets. Insects may be an increasingly important source of protein because of the rising cost of animal protein, food insecurity, environmental pressures, climate change, and population growth.

Edible insects often contain high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids for humans. According to the FAO, insects have a high food conversion rate—crickets need 12 times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and half as much feed as pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein.

Crickets and other edible insects provide food at low environmental cost, contribute positively to health, and are abundant throughout the planet. Insects are extremely efficient at converting feed into food. While 0.454 kilograms (one pound) of beef requires 11.35 kilograms (25 pounds) of food, 0.454 kilograms (one pound of crickets) requires a mere 0.908 kilograms (two pounds) of feed.

Edible insects can also be more environmentally friendly than livestock. They emit fewer greenhouse gases and ammonia than conventional livestock and can be fed on organic waste streams. 

Many companies are developing insect products because they can be delicious, healthy, and sustainable. Food Tank has compiled an exciting list of companies and organizations that are leading the insect revolution:

All Things Bugs—All Things Bugs sells finely milled cricket powder, marketed as Griopro, which can be used to make sustainable food products thereby improving food security and health.

Big Cricket Farms—Big Cricket Farms, founded in 2014, was the first American insect farm to obtain food-grade certification from the United States Food and Drug Administration and the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Their crickets are grown using organic and sustainable feed in Youngstown, Ohio and are raised exclusively for human consumption.

Bitty Foods—Bitty Foods makes cricket flour and cookies from sustainably raised crickets. All of their products are free of processed sugar and grains and are dairy-free.

Bugsolutely—Bugsolutely touts crickets as the “protein of the future.” They sell cricket pasta made from crickets raised for human consumption in traditional Thai farms.

Chapul—The Utah-based company Chapul prides itself as being the original cricket bar. Chapul founder Pat Crowley started making bars out of environmentally friendly crickets to lessen the water footprint and conserve water for generations to come.

Eco Insect Farming—The Thai company located in Chiang Mai works only with local farmers and is fair trade and certified organic. Products include dried crickets and four different flavors of cricket flour.

Edible Inc.—Edible Inc. makes mealworm cookies, silkworm biscotti, energy bars out of grasshopper flour, and nuts and bugs. The Seoul-based company was inspired by Korea’s food history and formed to increase sustainable eating practices.

Exo—Exo became a reality after a successful Kickstarter campaign by two Brown University graduates. The New York City-based organization sells protein and savory lunch bars made from crickets.

Gathr Foods—Gathr’s Crobar is manufactured in the United Kingdom and uses cricket flour from crickets that consume a diet of organic nuts, fruits, and seeds. The 91 percent raw, high-protein bar contains about 32 crickets and is completely gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, soy-free, and GMO-free.

Gryö—Gryö’s cricket bars are made by two cousins in France who wanted to create a product that was nutritious, sustainable, and free of refined sugars, GMOs, and preservatives. 

Hopper Foods—Hopper Foods sells high protein, gluten-free granola made from cricket flour, sustainably farmed in Austin Texas.

Jumping Jack Snack—The Netherlands-based company combines crunchy cereal with insect flour to create a sustainable granola bar.

Kinjao—The French company Kinjao has a whole line of sports nutrition products based on edible insects, including high protein pasta made from cricket flour and spirulina and cricket protein bars.

Next Millennium Farms—The Ontario-based bug shop sells gluten free and non-GMO lines of insect flour in addition to organic crickets and roasted and seasoned crickets and mealworms.

Six Foods—Six Foods, named after insects’ six legs, was started by three women wanting to create a buzz in the food system. Six Foods offers Chirps—cricket chips made out of beans, chia seeds, corn, peas, and cricket flour.

Tiny Farms—Tiny farms is an edible insect consulting firm based in California’s Silicon Valley that uses data to design efficient and scalable insect farms.

This article first appeared at Food Tank.

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