It’s happening – people are eating bugs. On purpose. “Entomophagy” is the practice of eating insects, like tarantulas and centipedes. Insects have been a popular food in many developing regions of Central and South America, Africa and Asia; Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Africa, Mexico, Columbia and New Guinea are all areas where inhabitants eat insects for nutritional value and taste appreciation. But insect delicacies are now becoming prevalent in developed countries like our own. Some of the best-liked varieties include crickets, grasshoppers, ants and scorpions, all creepy-crawlies you wouldn’t necessarily want to touch – but perhaps you’ll be willing to put in your mouth.
Three protein bars making their ways onto grocery stores lately are Chapul, Exo and Jungle – all made with crickets. They contain cricket flour, which is advertised by manufacturers as an environmentally-friendly alternative to milk or soy protein. So don’t worry, you’re not eating whole crickets, they are all mashed up into powder first. Yum.
Durango Natural Foods Co-op carries Chapul bars in several flavors; the Aztec, with dark chocolate, coffee and cayenne; the Thai, with coconut, ginger and lime; the Chocobar with peanut butter and chocolate; and the Matcha, with matcha tea, goji berries and nori seaweed. These are dairy free, no soy, all natural; containing 15 percent more iron than spinach, two times the protein content of beef and as much B12 as salmon. According to Chapul, crickets need only 17 percent of the food and less than 1 percent the amount of water and land that livestock need to produce the same amount of protein. They also require fewer natural resources than meat substitutes like soy, corn and rice. So you’re eating bugs AND saving the planet. Classic win-win.
Brent DuBois, grocery buyer at Durango Natural Foods Co-Op, claims Chapul is an innovative food bar, totally different from anything else out there. “I don’t think anyone is grossed out – they’re more apprehensive, but interested,” he said. At $3.29 apiece, these bars aren’t cheap, but DuBois suggests we give it time; “it’s a niche market right now, they’re not being mass produced yet. Plus, they have higher quality, organic ingredients, so that’s part of why they’re on the upper end of the price range.”
Though bugs might be a greener alternative source of protein, who knows whether Americans will be too grossed out by the idea of chomping down on pests to really get insect farming off the ground. There are other drawbacks, too; sometimes you can’t be sure what insects are exposed to. Most agricultural methods include pesticides and other toxins. If you know your source, however, you’re probably safe – as is the case with any product in the food industry these days.
— Anya Jaremko-Greenwold DGO Staff Writer