Saturday, November 7, 2015

Crickets are the New Kale

Crickets are the New Kale
By Charlotte Ouwehand

Chapman’s annual International Food Fair rolls around, where especially international students cook dishes from their home countries to share the culinary experience with the community. But what if you want to make dishes with an ingredient that could impact us globally and is already consumed in most cultures? You represent as United Nations!

I’m personally very interested in the development of insect farming for human consumption and think that eating protein from animals like crickets or mealworms would have a plethora of benefits. Wait. Crickets? Mealworms? Human consumption as in me? Yes! Most people don’t realize that we all eat on average a pound of insects every year through consumption of vegetables, fruits and processed foods that contain them such as chocolate or ketchup.  Our United Nations team wanted to use this great opportunity to deliver delicious food, challenge people’s minds and show how normal it can be to incorporate insects in your dishes.

Two wonderful fellow MBA and MBA/MS Food Science students, Charlie Stephen and Sophia Pollack, joined me, who both share the passion for culinary experiences and innovation. Together we prepared 10 pounds of pesto pasta, 8 bags of caramel popcorn and 1 pound of pan-fried crickets from Big Cricket Farms in Ohio to give it a crunchy, delicious protein load. Additionally we had 7 bags of crackers that are made with cricket flour from a company in Austin, Texas, called Cricker Crackers and topped them with brie cheese and strawberry marmalade.

Caramel Popcorn and Crickets

Pesto Pasta, Crickets, Avocado, Tomatoes

Honestly, I was nervous how the reactions would be and whether people would be willing to try our dishes. Those concerns turned out to be absolutely unfounded and we ran out instead! As a team we were so enthusiastic about what we wanted to share that the vast majority of people were willing to try all three dishes we had prepared. Many reactions were absolutely priceless, when the information sunk in that we were serving actual crickets.

Now you are still asking yourself why on earth you should be eating insects?

Healthy: Different insects have slightly different profiles, but crickets for example are very high in calcium, iron and protein. They also deliver a ‘complete’ protein, meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids.

Sustainable: To produce the same amount of edible protein from a cricket compared to traditional livestock (beef, chicken, pork) only about 0.1% of water is used and 80% less feed. Furthermore crickets would create 0.03% of greenhouse gases compared to beef and use a fraction of the cultivatable land, mainly for feed since insects can essentially be farmed in a skyscraper.
Cruelty free: Insects are probably the only animals that are happier to be farmed than to live free. Insects like crickets or mealworms prefer to be surrounded by many of their kind in close, dark spaces and be save from a variety of predators as they are the lowest link in the food chain. To make them ready for consumption, crickets are put into a big freezer, where the temperature is slowly lowered. This puts them into a state called diapause, which means their metabolism naturally slows down and at low enough temperatures they can’t wake up again. Insects are not proven to feel pain, but this is certainly a very stress and cruelty free end to their life.

The current challenge to this rapidly growing industry is to scale the production to be able to compete on price with traditional protein sources. There are great new companies out there like Exo protein, Chapul, Coalo Valley Farms, Bitty Foods, Six Foods and many more that are offering everything from the crickets, cricket flour, energy bars, chips, crackers, granola to cookies and more. One of the largest contributors to climate change is livestock and the necessary production of feed for them. Including insects in our normal diet would have great positive impacts everywhere, but will become increasingly important due to our fast growing world population and already not having enough resources in terms of water, energy, fertile lands or space to supply everyone with the necessary nutrition.

We hope you could try our dishes during the fair or made you curious about trying it!

Bug Appétit!