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Backed by a United Nations report suggesting insect consumption as a sustainability strategy to combat world hunger and fueled by foodies’ insatiable appetite for novelty, food innovators are marching crickets—the “gateway bug” of packaged food—into energy bars, protein powders, and baking flour.
The reasons are compelling:
- Insects produce protein efficiently, with 2 pounds of feed producing 1 pound of crickets (1 pound of beef requires 8 pounds of feed).
- Insect farming uses one-tenth of the water it takes to produce an equivalent weight in beef protein.
- Insects are "a highly nutritious and healthy food source with high fat, protein, vitamin, fiber and mineral content,” says the UN report.
- Right now, a pound of cricket flour costs about $30 wholesale. The June price on a pound of whey protein concentrate was $1.34; beef hit an all-time high in the $2 per pound range. (Proponents say the prices reflect an industry in its infancy.)
- The FDA has regulations on insect parts in food, but the situation with insects as food is not entirely clear.
- If you're allergic to shellfish, products should come with an allergy warning because crickets, like lobster and shrimp, are arthropods.
- Environmental awareness and food scarcity do not necessarily create a compelling eating experience.
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