Despite our heavy reliance on pesticides, you may be surprised to find out that the FDA actually allows a certain amount of insects, and their parts, to make it into our food. The FDA likes to label these special insect ingredients as “animal byproducts.”
But these byproducts aren’t the only way insects are making it into our food. As reported in International Business (IB) Times, the Ohio-based Big Cricket Farms is the first farm to exclusively breed insects for human consumption.
Crickets in Tortilla Flour
Big Cricket Farms is joining forces with Six Foods, an insect food start-up from Boston, to create a new breed of tortilla. The plan: to pulverize the crickets down to a powdery “flour.” The final product will be “cricket chips,” or, as they might affectionately call them, “cricket chirps.”
Yet, the flour won’t exclusively be cricket-based. The flour will include traditional and comforting tortilla ingredients to help consumers overcome the mental barrier of eating bugs. As reported in IB Times, Laura D’Asaro, co-founder of Six Foods, explained, “We realized people aren’t going to eat insects as long as they could see what it was.” The truth is, there’s plenty of more disgusting ingredients that are horrible for us that we’re already eating.
Benefits of Consuming Insects
While consumers will get a similar tortilla look and taste, they will get a “chirp” very rich in protein; the protein source is actually comparable to that of livestock in industrial farming and may be able to replace traditional livestock farms altogether. Yet, the benefits don’t end with protein. A 2013 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations called “Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security,” goes into great detail about the human, animal and environmental benefits of insect farms.
According to the report, eating insects, or entomophagy, is nutritionally good for us. There’s plenty of healthy fats, calcium, iron and zinc. It’s eco-friendly because of the drastic cut in greenhouse gas emissions, and there’s less need for land-clearing activities like those destroying the Amazon rainforest. Entomophagy also makes economic sense because it’ll give women and those without land an opportunity to generate income.
Eating insects isn’t anything new; there are many cultures that consider insects delicious treats. The top five insects to eat to fight world hunger are: beetles; caterpillars; wasps and bees; ants and grasshoppers; locusts; and crickets. Plus, most of us already eat honey; that’s basically bee vomit and no one seems to flinch.
Foods Already Containing Insects and Their Parts
Here are a few other foods already containing insects (or their parts).
- Gobble up the weevils in your pecans.
- Enjoy the fly eggs and/or maggots in your tomatoes.
- Spread the 30 or more insect fragments (and at least one rodent hair per 100 grams) of your creamy peanut butter.
There’s a whole lot more, but I’ll spare you the rest.
There’s no need to alert the FDA because it already knows.
I’ll be honest, while I see the benefits of insect farms and I do feel like they’re a more sustainable alternative to our traditional farming model, I still have this nagging feeling — I don’t want insects to die, either. I realize that it’s an inevitable reality with our current farming model, but I don’t like it. Then again, I don’t get the thrill out of killing insects like some people I know; I think we all know someone like that.
Plus, my Central American heart and taste buds still say go for the rice tortillas (which are a round piece of heaven!), even though there’s probably insects, or their parts, in that, too. I feel like simultaneously eating a rice tortilla and starting a never-ending cleanse now.
What about you ? Will you be vegging (or, bugging) out on a chirp or other insect-based food, anytime soon? And, if you’ve already tried an insect(s) before, then share your experience in the comments below.
Photo Credit: Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel