A bowl of frozen crickets. Many large companies are investigating whether they can be a sustainable and profitable protein alternative. Lisa Rathke/Associated Press
Novak likens crickets to the Tesla electric car, believing that the price will come down as production scales up. “Any movement like this requires early adopters, passionate about the long-term potential, to kickstart the industry.”
By Corey Mintz
Special To The Globe And Mail
Published February 4, 2018
For field research in 2013/2014, Evans and chef Ben Reade travelled the world, eating honey ants, palm weevil larvae, termite queens (“like God’s handmade sausage”), bush coconuts, larvae-ripened Sardinian cheese and Japanese wasps, learning about traditional harvesting methods from locals, their experience documented by filmmaker Andreas Johnsen in Bugs (2016).
While studying the ecological, economical and cultural aspect of eating insects, the pair is keen on the taste factor. But part way through the project, they grow wary that their research is merely setting up international food conglomerates to swoop in, monetize and dominate the market.
There are some signals that global food corporations are eyeing that possibility. At a food conference in 2016, General Mills technology director Erika Smith expressed the company’s openness to the idea of insects. A trend report from food and agriculture conglomerate Cargill predicts the market for “third-generation alternative proteins” (which includes insects) will grow in the coming years. And last year, PepsiCo (which makes Doritos, Quaker Oats and Cheetos) posted a request for proposal, seeking new protein sources for use in snacks and beverages. The RFP says they are open to insect protein, and that they’ve already experimented with cricket and mealworm powder.
Further letter to the editor.
I have been a researcher and entrepreneur in the edible insect field for the past 11 years. Corey Mintz’s article on insects as food identified factors that well could make edible insect protein less sustainable than promised by some advocates (Bugging Out: Why Eating Insects Won’t End World Hunger, Feb. 5).
The real potential of insects lies in their inherent ability to process various forms of biowaste as feed, thereby decreasing the overall amount of farmland and pasture land. We’re already using alternative feeds such as used microbrewery grains and expired foods.
The article correctly pointed out that environmental savings will diminish as the scale of the edible insect industry expands. But this was assuming the current big agro-business model. My research proposes a counter strategy for scale economies.
Urban areas are the largest concentrations of biowastes on the planet. Insect farming requires no land clearance and is adaptable to constrained city spaces. Small urban farms can capitalize on the variety and proximity of different types of easily available waste from grocery stores, restaurants, microbreweries, and so on. We thereby establish a virtuous cycle of waste reduction and feed provision, all working locally.
This is not futurism. In March of 2017, I began operation of Canada’s first city-approved urban edible cricket farm, with other modular urban cricket farms about to launch in San Francisco and Toronto.
These are demonstrating now that the promise of high nutritional load for low economic and environmental cost is a present reality.
Jakub Dzamba, Mississauga