Bugs for Breakfast

Food Culture

Bugs for Breakfast

Courtesy of EXO

FANCY YOURSELF AN ADVENTUROUS EATER? How about a cricket stir-fry, with chili-roasted grasshoppers as a side and chocolate-covered ants for a nice dessert?

This isn’t an episode of Fear Factor—bugs are emerging as the next foodie frontier and sustainable protein alternative. With the human population estimated to reach nine billion by 2050, researchers, chefs, farmers, governments and consumers are looking for more sustainable ways to feed and support a rapidly crowding world.

Unfortunately, it’s profoundly ingrained in Western culture that insects and bugs are dirty, disgusting pests. Yet, two billion people around the world already eat these creepy-crawlers—insects are well-established elements in local diets in many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture organization, there are 1,900 varieties of edible insects, the most popular being beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets.

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And the little critters are nutritious and economical, to boot. According to the USDA, 100 grams of crickets contain about 12.9 grams of protein—that’s about half the protein in the same amount of beef per weight, but the bugs require only one-twelfth the amount of feed and they produce only one-eightieth the volume of methane gas as livestock. (Some bugs are as much as 80 percent protein by weight.) Insects’ crunchy exoskeletons are also extremely high in calcium. They need relatively little land or water, they are inexpensive, reproduce quickly and are easy to keep alive.

Companies like EXO and California’s Bitty Foods are making bugs more palatable by drying and grinding them into flour (often described as tasting like toasted grains or hazelnuts), which can be incorporated into protein bars, cookies and more. EXO raises its crickets on a certified organic grain-based diet; it takes about 40 crickets to make one of its protein bars, which come in flavors like cacao nut, blueberry-vanilla, apple-cinnamon and peanut butter & jelly. Bitty Foods makes a variety of cricket-based cookies, including chocolate chip and orange ginger.

For more information about eating bugs, tag along on any kindergarten field trip, or visit exoprotein.com and bittyfoods.com.

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