Here’s another reason I’m glad to be vegetarian: I have a solid excuse not to try foodstuffs produced in America’s first edible insect farm. Phew!
Six Foods (“because six legs are better than four”) is a company started by three Harvard graduates who waffled back and forth between vegetarianism and meat-eating, largely because of the constant battle to get enough protein when you’re a veghead, to which I can attest. On a trip to Tanzania, one of the founders ate a caterpillar (seriously, why start with the squishiest of insects?) and everything clicked into place. Not only was it apparently delicious, but the trio realized that eating insects is a sustainable and healthy way to get protein. I’ll admit I hadn’t thought of that.
Six Foods’ successful Kickstarter surpassed its initial goal and its stretch goal, meaning that it will now be able to manufacture and sell Chirps, which are chips made of beans, rice, and cricket flour. Turns out that ground crickets are chock full of protein — cricket flour is 70% protein and Chirps contain seven grams of protein per serving, which is more protein than you’d get eating an egg. Chirps are also low-fat and gluten- and GMO-free. Compared to the 2,000 gallons of water it takes to produce a pound of beef, it takes a mere gallon of water to produce a pound of crickets. What’s not to love?
You might be surprised that the “yuck factor” didn’t doom this project — I know I am. But Six Foods is smart, they brought in a professional chef to help them develop the recipe and to figure out the best techniques for cooking crickets. I’m pretty sure I saw something like that on Top Chef once — and in fact, the winner of that challenge prepared fried tempura crickets. Anyway, in a video posted on their Kickstarter page, the trio took to the streets of Cambridge, a city that’s nothing if not open-minded and supportive of its resourceful entrepreneurs, and the consensus was that the chips are “really good.” They’ll be releasing three flavors: hickory BBQ, aged cheddar, and sea salt.
Since their Kickstarter met its stretch goal, the company will be starting an urban cricket farm in Youngstown, Ohio. Right now would-be insect eaters in the U.S. either have to go hunting or visit a pet store to buy supplies sold as pet food. Big Cricket Farms will change all that by raising organically fed, sustainably bred, and happy crickets. No Oculus Rifts necessary for these guys!
The ultimate goal is to promote the widespread use of cricket flour, which can be used in a bunch of other foods, either alone or in combination with other flours. Even though I never thought I’d be saying so, I’ll try Chirps, especially as it seems they’ll be coming to my neck of the woods (heh) soon. But I’m drawing the line at caterpillars.