Crunching on Cricket Cuisine (podcast)

May 19th, 2017 | By | Category: Featured Articles, podcast, the show
Toasted Crickets

Toasted Crickets, photo © Cecilia Nasti


Tenth Annual Bug (Eating) Festival | Saturday June 10, 2017 | 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. CT | in.gredients | 2610 Manor Rd, Austin, TX | Hashtag: #ATXBugFest |  Kids up to 15 years old FREE | Live insect cooking demos | Educational demos |

Experts predict the world’s population will increase to nine billion people by 2050. That’s two billion more hungry humans tucking in at the global table.

Robert Nathan Allen– who goes by the nickname RNA– says an eco-friendly protein that can help answer the question “what’s for dinner” in the year’s ahead is edible insects: “Compared to, say a cow,where we can only really eat about forty percent of the cow, with insects, we can eat most, if not all of them.”

RNA founded the Austin based nonprofit Little Herds to educate the public about insects as a nutritious and environmentally sustainable alternative food source. We met at McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, Texas , and sat at a picnic table to talk about eating insects, which is called Entomophagy .

He says we currently eat 400 or more insects annually without knowing it, and adds with a smile: “We can do better.” Although, he is quick to add that because insects are closely related to things like crabs, lobsters and shellfish, if you have allergies to these things, it is best to check with your doctor before embarking on a bug diet.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has guidelines — called Defect Levels —  for the acceptable number of “bug parts” (and rodent miscellany) various foods may contain and still pass muster. On average, chocolate that contains 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams is still acceptable according to the FDA.

Insects are high in protein and rich in fiber and micro nutrients. Ounce for ounce they compare favorably with the other meats we eat.  Today, seventy percent of our agricultural land supports traditional meat production– whether growing the animals or the grains for them –which limits the industry’s ability for future growth.

“So, with insects, we can raise them in a modular fashion — vertically — on a fraction of the land as traditional livestock; with a fraction of the water; with a fraction of the feed, and end up with more nutritionally valuable protein.”

RNA recommends eating only organic, farm raised insects versus wild caught specimens because of our culture’s rampant pesticide use.

About 19-hundred edible insect species have been identified, although only a handful of insects — including crickets, meal worms, grasshoppers and a few others — are currently raised for human consumption.

The United Nations released a report in 2013 recommending  a protein-rich diet of insects to deal with an exploding global population and growing environmental concerns. Two billion people worldwide are already unabashed insect eaters; the majority of those folks are — no surprise here — not westerners.

RNA brought a container of toasted crickets, granola made with soldier fly larvae, and two different energy bars made with cricket flour and other goodies to our interview. I sampled everything in spite of my personal aversion to the thought of ingesting  insects, and found them all palatable.

I would even say a couple of them were actually tasty.

I’m not sure I’ve been converted, but if you’re interested in sampling dishes featuring edible insects, and you live in the Austin, Texas area, the 10th Annual Austin Bug (Eating) Festival. It’s planned for June 10, 2016, from 4: 00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CT at in.gredients at 2610 Manor Road. It’s free for children up to 15  years old.

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