For the majority of us Westerners, the concept of eating creepy crawly bugs is as disgusting as it is unimaginable. Yet insects are an important dietary staple for billions of people worldwide.
“Entomophagy” – the consumption of insects as a food source, is definitely not a new phenomenon. Archaeological evidence of insect consumption can be found all over the globe, dating back tens of thousands of years.
So why insects? For one, raising them is exponentially more environmentally sustainable in comparison to the typical protein food sources of chicken, beef, pork, and others. They require very small amounts of nutrition and water to properly grow, while also needing significantly less land to be raised on. Insects also have a much greater fecundity than typical livestock; they reproduce vastly more offspring at a time with a very small reproductive cycle. Additionally insects take a small amount of time to mature, thus making them ideal for raising.
In terms of nutrition, insects are highly efficient protein sources. Many of them are also loaded with other hot nutrients, such as omega-3s, b-vitamins, and iron. The amount of usable protein from insects is also a lot greater than their conventional counterparts. Crickets, for example, have little waste in terms of processing, whereas animals like cattle have only certain parts of their body usable as food.
chapulOne company based in Salt Lake City is leading the charge for an insect revolution right here in the US. Chapul Inc. specializes in high energy bars, with their main ingredient being a flour produced from crickets. Being the audacious person I am, I decided to order Chapul’s sample pack of three different cricket bars to see exactly what this craze was all about. A little background on myself; I am a man who shrieks at his roommates to kill even the smallest of bugs. I had nothing short of anxiety when I saw the package had arrived. At last, I reasoned to myself that I probably consume plenty of insects a year unintentionally and after all, the bars were made with a flour produced from crickets, so there was no danger of crunching on legs or husks.
Since I like bitter flavors, I chose the Aztec Bar first, which was flavored with dark chocolate, coffee, and cayenne. I quickly sucked up my fear and took a large bite and to my surprise I did not die. The bitter earthy taste of this bar was actually pleasant. Next up was the Thai Bar, flavored with coconut, ginger, and lime. The piquancy here was extremely surprising, this bar had a very intense flavor unlike anything I had ever tasted and left quite an impression on me. Last, but not least in my cricket adventure was the Chaco Bar, made with chocolate and peanut butter. This bar was phenomenal and was hands down one of the best bars I have ever tasted. If I would have not of known the ingredients of this bar, I would have probably inhaled it. Crickets aside, this was easily my favorite of Chapul’s product line and if I ever eat more insect bars in the future I definitely would want them to taste like this.
All in all, eating bugs was not nearly as bad or as gross as I expected. I truly believe that entomophagy has nearly unlimited potential for the future; just imagine if we replaced even a fraction of the world’s livestock supplies with insects. The amount of food produced would increase rampantly. The only major obstacle I see marketing to Westerners is the serious revulsion we have towards insects. Yet with large organizations such as the UN encouraging more insect consumption, it is very likely that this phenomenon will be a very hot topic in the future.