A new line of low-fat, protein-packed snacks are changing the way we consume food.
The consumption of insects as food, also known as entomophagy, is common in many countries around the world. While it has simply been a part of everyday life for people in countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Columbia, and New Guinea, this cuisine is now making headway in the US’ health food and sustainability markets.
Six Foods, a Boston startup founded and run by three female Harvard grads, has recently joined forces with Big Cricket Farms in Ohio to create a new demand for eco-friendly, nutrient rich, insect based snacks. Their successful Kickstarter campaign highlights the team’s strategy: Six Foods is suppling the culinary know-how and the marketing expertise, while the farm is in charge of cricket cultivation and processing.
Their main product, Chirps, are a baked snack consisting of beans, rice, and cricket flour (slow roasted milled crickets). The nutritional chips are gluten-free, contain half as much fat as the leading chip brands, and also provide a solid seven grams of protein per serving. To add variety and increase mass appeal, the Chirps will be offered in three flavors: Sea Salt, BBQ, and Aged Cheddar. The company also has plans to produce and sell Chocolate “Chirp” Cookies. The cricket flour’s “nutty” flavor profile will be supplemented with sugar and other key cookie ingredients to make a sweet, protein filled treat.
Our increasing population is causing demand for meat to grow at a rapid rate in the face of limited resources and environmental harm. Cricket farming is an innovative means of providing alternative nutrition to the masses while reducing energy usage and carbon emissions. Compared to the 2,000 gallons of water and 25 bags of feed that it takes to produce one pound of beef, it only takes one gallon of water and two bags of feed to produce the same amount of cricket flour. Founder Laura D’Asaro points out the space limitation that cricket farms can overcome:
What’s really exciting about insects—besides the eating of them—is that you can grow them in cities. You can’t grow cows and pigs because they’re too resource intensive. But insects are the most efficient creatures for converting feed to food.
Big Cricket Farms’ parent company, Tikkun Olam, is committed to the urban revitalization of Youngstown, Ohio. The city’s many abandoned warehouses, abundant space, and low costs make it an ideal place for a cricket farm. As of now, Big Cricket Farms aims to process up to 1 million crickets every four weeks, which is about 250 pounds of product. At full capacity it will be able to produce up to 1,500 pounds of flour. Production at this scale can help get the city of Youngstown back on its feet and attract other entrepreneurial ventures in search of a home. Such farming methods may be able to find huge success in larger cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco as well.
As of now there are various USDA and health issues which may put the venture at risk. To combat potential criticism, farm owner Kevin Bachhuber ensures his crickets are being fed with organic chicken feed. The farm will also soon begin using food waste from the Youngstown community to further its dedication to sustainability.
By packaging the bugs in chip and cookie form, Six Foods hopes to facilitate a change in our cultural perception of food. Such a change seems unlikely at first glance, but in a society so greatly influenced and motivated by improvements in the environment and health, anything can be possible.