Modern humans are ravenous consumers. This August humanity passed Earth Overshoot Day, meaning we have consumed a year’s worth of Earth’s resources in a little under 8 months, and are expected to consume 1.6 Earths this year. You may also have noticed that when we’re not busy draining our planet of life-sustaining resources, we’re busy baking it with the greenhouse gases we emit from fossil fuels and agriculture. This process threatens humanity with rising sea levels, violent weather systems, and deadly heat waves. Given these perils and impending doom, it’s actually pretty exciting to think that we might be able to kill two birds with one stone if we engaged in more entomophagy – eating insects!
Yes, fine dining on crispy creepy crawlers is exactly what the U.N. recommends to combat global warming and increase sustainability. The idea has legs, some tiny, scratchy legs. That’s because insects are just as or more nutritious than meat in both protein and vitamin content. Additionally, insect farming tends to require less resources than livestock in terms of space, feed, and water. The end result is a product that pound for pound is comparable to meat, but is more sustainable and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. You shouldn’t get freaked out at the idea. You’re already eating insects daily, whether you recognize it or not. As a concerned citizen of planet Earth, I decided to find out what a bug-eating future might taste like.
All the products I sampled are in the picture above. The insect snacking began with the Salt N’Vinegar Crick-ettes distributed by the Hotlix company (yes, the same one that puts bugs in lollipops). They’re basically whole, baked crickets. I was confused and a little frightened by “the other Green Meat” tagline, because I didn’t want to know what the popular green meat was. Nevertheless, I cracked open the box and got to it.
Surprisingly, these guys were pretty savory! They actually just tasted like salt and vinegar chips, albeit with a little different texture. The best comparison I could come up with was brittle sunflower seeds: not nearly as difficult to chew on, but still kind of scratchy. However, the experience was much better than I was expecting. I couldn’t hold my excitement in and decided to share with my brother.
I then moved on to the BBQ Larvets by the same Hotlix company. These were basically puffed mealworms (think longer Rice Krispies) dusted with seasoning. I figured who doesn’t love a good BBQ in Texas? Maybe future football tailgates will feature beetle brisket!
On second thought, let’s hold the bug BBQ for now. As with the crickets, the mealworms were better than I expected, but the seasoning just wasn’t doing it for me. I’m not sure that I would’ve liked them in BBQ sauce over the seasoning, but I feel these guys would be great with cheese. For that reason, I wish I would’ve tried the cheddar cheese option that Hotlix does offer. I could easily see these guys becoming the new Cheetos.
My final snack was the cricket flour protein bars made by Exo. The concept is pretty straightforward: a protein bar featuring crickets that were ground into a fine powder. If any of you are crowdfunding junkies, you’ll remember that Exo began as a kickstarter project back in 2013. You have to give the people what they want, and apparently what they want is pulverized crickets. It was time to see what all the fuss was about. I let my brother take the first bite.
I’m not a fan of protein bars, but the Exo bar acquitted itself well. They had the same chalky, dull experience you get with every protein bar, but were nonetheless palatable. In other words, you can suffer through any protein bar today, so why not do it with crickets?! Not exactly a ringing endorsement, I know, but the point is I didn’t see a big taste advantage of conventional bars over this one.
What did I learn from all this? Bugs taste a lot better than I thought they would! Keep in mind that I had limited access to options, and was buying from a couple of suppliers. These are not the fresh, homemade preparations you can get in the dozens of countries that regularly eat insects. I have little doubt that freshly prepared insect dishes would taste much better than the vending machine fare I had here. Although some insect farming might not be as sustainable as we would all like it to be, globalized entomophagy would at least cut down our dependence on livestock and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions. Check out some insect vendors where you can get started today. What’s more American than protecting the country you love and asserting your dominance in the food chain? Bring on the bugs!