Fish and chirps? Crick­ets make leap for pro­tein

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By ASSOCIATED PRESS in Wil­lis­ton, Ver­mont

At To­mor­row’s Har­vest farm, you won’t find acres of land on which an­i­mals graze, or rows of corn, or bales of hay. Just stacks of boxes in a base­ment and the sum­mery song of thou­sands of chirp­ing crick­ets.

It’s one of a grow­ing num­ber of op­er­a­tions rais­ing crick­ets for hu­man con­sump­tion that th­ese farm­ers say is more eco­log­i­cally sound than meat but ac­knowl­edge is sure to bug some peo­ple out.

Once con­sumers get be­yond the ick fac­tor, they say, there are a lot of ben­e­fits to con­sum­ing bugs.

“We don’t need ev­ery­body to eat in­sects,” said Robert Allen, di­rec­tor of Lit­tle Herds, an ed­u­ca­tional non­profit that pro­motes the use of in­sects for hu­man food and an­i­mal feed.

Cricket fans say if only 1 per­cent of the US pop­u­la­tion sub­sti­tuted even just 1 per­cent of their meat con­sump­tion with in­sects, mil­lions of gal­lons of wa­ter in drink­ing and ir­ri­ga­tion would be saved, along with thou­sands of met­ric tons of green­house-gas emis­sions from ma­chin­ery and an­i­mals.

At least one study finds the claims over­stated that crick­ets are a vi­able pro­tein source to sup­ple­ment or re­place meat, but the bot­tom line is it gen­er­ally takes fewer re­sources to raise and har­vest crick­ets than, say, cat­tle.

In­ter­est in en­to­mophagy, the con­sump­tion of in­sects, was fu­eled in part by a 2013 re­port from the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the United Na­tions on the vi­a­bil­ity of ed­i­ble in­sects to help curb world hunger. Since then, the num­ber of pro­duc­ers of food con­tain­ing crick­ets, from pro­tein bars to chips, has jumped from zero to about 20, and cricket farms for hu­man food have grown to about half a dozen in the United States, Allen said.

The pro­tein-packed food can be ground into pow­der and added to other foods or eaten whole, dried, sauteed and spiced. Crick­ets have a nutty or earthy fla­vor that’s masked by other fla­vors in pro­tein bars.

Self-de­scribed ad­ven­tur­ous eater Matthew Mon­roe, 53, said he’s fond of blue­berry-vanilla Exo bars con­tain­ing cricket flour and dines on them when he gets that “pro­tein bar jonesing feel­ing”. They also taste bet­ter than other pro­tein bars, he said.

There’s no prob­lem sell­ing crick­ets as long as man­u­fac­tur­ers en­sure the food they pro­duce for the US mar­ket is safe.

Rais­ing crick­ets doesn’t take much space, but there are com­plex­i­ties.

Stephen Swan­son, pro­pri­etor of To­mor­row’s Har­vest, said he con­stantly checks con­di­tions wa­ter, food, tem­per­a­ture, air flow and hu­mid­ity in the base­ment where he’s rais­ing roughly half a mil­lion crick­ets.

Swan­son, who just started sell­ing cricket pro­tein pow­der on­line, hopes to get into a ware­house where some of the work could be au­to­mated. “The sky’s the limit. This is the stone age right now as far as in­sect farm­ing,” he said. “So we have nowhere to go but up.”

NIKOLAI LINARES / SCANPIX DEN­MARK VIA AFP

New mul­ti­mil­lion­aires Leif and Aase Som­mer, who won 114 mil­lion eu­ros ($121 mil­lion) tax free in the Euro Jack­pot lottery, cel­e­brate at the Su­perBrugsen store where they bought the win­ning coupon, in Oel­sted, Den­mark, on Wed­nes­day.

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