KSJ Tracker May 29, 2014

Jiminy! US company marketing cricket flour - and other signs of domestic yen for entomophagy

Promo material from Six Foods

  How about a nice cricket chip, or chirp to the cognoscenti? Or a silkworm burger patty? The suspicion occurred, on reading the story just below, that a lot of other such accounts have popped up recently. Perhaps they signal an impending inroad into one of the biggest yuck prompters in American culture: the consumption of insects, worms, and other so-called creepie crawlies. Around the world many peoples already eat our small squirmy and multilegged friends with relish, maybe ketchup. Another suspicion occurred: raising insects as food is so much more efficient than other, generally hooved, livestock and will probably never have the hassle of PETA protests, are they a far more obvious solution to animal rights worries than factory-manufactured meat?

    How long before the TV program my Mrs. Tracker favors, The Chew, discusses sauces that best enhance grasshopper fritters? A few science writers have already been covering entomophagy (eating of insects) and many more will follow along. Just what are the nutrition, energy, advantage, peril (pathogens?), and opportunity angles that need further reporting?

   While the story is at New Scientist, it reads more like a business story with most of its news either a listing of the company's assertions and reporting on other businesses testing the same general market. But it does discuss pit-falls, such as the damage that an outbreak of food poisoning or other malady due to eating insects would inflict on this embryonic US industry. The story has a very useful section near the end, where it discusses the "psychology of disgust" and mentions other once-shunned foods in the US that have become popular (sushi, for one). Hmm. We already eat so many arthropodish bug-and-crawly looking things (shrimp, crabs, lobsters, abalone, crayfish...) that the hurdle may not be so tough. Maybe renaming things will help? Caterpillers and other large larvae as "tree prawns"?

Other reasonably recent stories:

Grist for the Mill:

Six Food Farms promo package ;

UN Food and Agriculture Organization 2013 report Edible insects/future prospects for food and feed security ; Tons of facts. Too bad FAO didn't have a fierce copy editor on duty when this went down the pike. Is there a difference between future prospects and just plain prospects?

Book by Julieta Ramos-Elorduy Creepy Crawly Cuisine.

One obvious angle left unexplored here is whether the GMO toolkit will be applied to edible insects. Perhaps, just maybe, I mean who knows?, but it seems possible that genetic tinkering might deliver mealworms or bug-type things that not only are easier to raise and lighter on the environment by far than cattle, ducks, or pigs but taste like them too. Plus, a second angle. One reads that farm-raised salmon are eco-nonsense in part because salmon ranchers tend to feed them meal made from other marine organisms whose harvest itself harms ocean biodiversity and so on. Would salmon eat farm-raised insects just about as eagerly? Somebody check it out.

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