Edible bug industry hopes crickets and kin are the next sushi

Fri May 27, 2016 10:37am EDT
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By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Just like raw tuna is a favorite of foodies everywhere, Robert Nathan Allen foresees a day when crickets will make their way onto consumers' plates.

A growing need for more food sources as well as a desire to treat animals more humanely have proponents predicting entomophagy, or eating insects, will eventually spread more heavily to western and developed countries. They envision pancakes made with cricket flour or falafel chocked full of mealworm goodness will be just as desirable as sushi.

"Sushi took 30, 40 years to really become a normal thing, but kale took like five years and kale's not even very tasty," said Allen, head of Austin, Texas-based Little Herds, a nonprofit founded to educate the public on the nutritional and environmental benefits of edible insects.

Allen and about 150 others are gathering at Wayne State University in Detroit through Saturday to talk about edible bugs and how to grow the nascent industry. The conference is being billed as the first of its kind in the United States.

They want to overcome what one speaker called the "yuck factor," a feeling shared by many in the United States and other developed countries.

From ants and beetle larvae eaten by tribes in Africa to crispy-fried locusts enjoyed in Thailand, almost 2,000 insect species are dined on by about two billion people globally today, according to a 2013 United Nations report. With the world's population growth indicating food production will need to almost double by 2050, people need to check their revulsion and give bugs a second look, the report said.

Since food scientist Lee Cadesky envisions a huge food sector over time, he and his brother founded C-fu Foods in Toronto, an ingredient company that makes meat, dairy and egg alternatives from insects.

Under the brand name One Hop Kitchen, they will launch this week the sale of two kinds of insect Bolognese pasta sauce made with mealworms and crickets as the stand in for the traditional ground beef ingredient. Cadesky said it fooled most consumers in taste tests at food trade shows.   Continued...

Robert Allen, co-founder of Little Herds, a nonprofit educational program promoting the use of insects for food and feed, holds a edible freeze-dried cricket between his teeth during a 'Eating Insects Detroit: Exploring the Culture of Insects as Food and Feed' conference at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan May 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook