Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Entomophagy: The Evolution of Food

"When you read books by [European] travellers in the 1700s or 1800s, if they went to Africa or somewhere like Mexico where they saw people eating insects, it would be like, 'Their hunger's so great, their access to meat so scarce that they resorted, horrifically, to eating insects'."
Julie Lesnik, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Wayne State University, Detroit

"That wasn't the case whatsoever. They were doing it because it was healthy and good for their environment."
"It's delicious, it's nutritious and it's sustainable."
"This opportunity with Loblaw is massive validation for the category [insect eating], for our industry. We're excited to see what comes out of it in that respect. Hopefully it's just that first step toward further acceptance and normalization."
Jarrod Goldin, Entomo Farms, Norwood, Ontario
Loblaw Cricket Flour 20180306
Roasted crickets are shown at the Entomo Farms cricket processing facility in Norwood Ont., in this April 2016 photo. (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press)
"It's one thing for us to be educating people and telling them, 'You can get these products from this website'. It's another thing for them to see it on their grocery shelf."
"That legitimizes it so much more. It gives the consumer the trust and confidence to try that product because their trusted grocer is carrying it." 
"There is a variety of different applications and, as the industry has grown -- even in the last two years -- the diversity of applications has grown. So we've seen more and more ways that these start-up companies are looking at using the insects in their products and ingredients.
"...Their value statement is: every jar of [insect protein] pasta sauce saves 18 bathtubs [1,900 litres] of water compared to the beef. To be able to put that impact into perspective for consumers after they do a blind taste test and can't even tell -- that's really powerful."
"It's an incredibly wholesome food source that should be available to anybody who wants to utilize it. We don't need everybody to eat it, because not everybody eats shrimp, not everybody eats pork and not everybody eats broccoli -- but those are thriving industries. We only need to have a very small percentage of the consumer base actually add this into their diet to create a very robust and thriving industry. And to be able to show some very outsized environmental impacts."
Robert Nathan Allen, president, Little Herds 

"We're actually looking for a supplier that would help make those [nutritional bars], and then of course Entomo would supply the raw material."
"The [cricket] powder made more sense because people could incorporate it into food ... It's helping bridge people that have a bit of the 'ick' factor. You see the powder and it looks quite benign, and looks like something you could add into anything you're cooking."
Kathlyne Ross, VP, product development and innovation, Loblaw Companies Ltd. grocers
Plates of fried crickets. Roughly 80 per cent of the global population is known to eat a range of bugs. Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images
It's been rumoured, talked about, wondered at, tried out for many years. The 'ick' factor is certainly there, but so is a good number of people with the will and the curious interest to give them a try, to be persuaded that eating insects of various types in intriguing presentations is of value in feeding the world of humans with protein to build strong bodies. In particular this source should be of interest to vegans and vegetarians since animal products identify as the prime source of B12. And then the case can be made that insects are part of the animal kingdom.

"It's hard to wrap my mind around because, if you're using cricket, you're not a vegan or vegetarian anyway", stated Amanda Li, a registered dietitian. "In my opinion, if you're going to be eating fish, chicken, or turkey ... you probably don't need to add more protein on top of that unless you're trying to be more sustainable"; her perception that seems to question the need for yet another animal source of protein. She is likely in the minority, however; the prospect of opening up new food markets to a source that is the most abundant of all life on Earth appeals to many more involved in the food industry.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has been forthrightly praising and attempting to further a consumer dietary market comprised of insects, identifying them as a hugely sustainable high quality protein source. Which just incidentally needs six times less feed to produce the equivalent amount of protein than does cattle. People living in northern global regions where cold winters limit the presence of insects to seasons tend not to consider bugs as food, unlike those in Mexico, Central and South America whose plentiful natural resources include insects and where eating them is culturally established.

An estimated two billion people globally consume insects, regarding them to represent a normal proportion of their daily diet. The worldwide market for insects for the dinner plate was valued in 2015 at close to $43-M and it is anticipated that this is due to gain momentum, up to 40 percent growth by 2023. As many as two thousand edible insect species flourish around the world; ants, grasshoppers, beetles and caterpillars and countless others in a world where consuming bugs has now crept into the Western world.

Now that Loblaw grocers has added cricket to their shelves, it can be considered that the eating of insects is finally on stream to become accepted as part of the North American diet. Entomo's cricket powder is sold at all Loblaw grocery stores throughout Canada, having been added to the PC Insiders Collection. Protein powder produced from crickets is readily available at the local supermarket. Research published by the journal Global Food Security in 2017 concluded that insects and plant-based meats "have the highest land use efficiency". 

If people exchanged half of the traditional animal products they consume, such as beef, or lamb for bugs "the land required to produce the world's food would be slashed by a third", according to The Guardian in the U.K. And Loblaw promotes cricket powder as a food source with strong sustainability, nutritional properties, diverse applications and palatability. A boon for the mass market. The very concept of entomophagy in the West; insect-enriched pancake mixes, cookies, crackers are promoted as added protein nutrients.

The rule of thumb for their use in savoury or sweet baking is ten percent substitution of total flour with cricket powder. Protein powder is becoming a popular choice among athletes, along with those people involved in weight management. It is viewed as convenient, either used as a meal in itself, or to balance and fortify a meal or snack otherwise not containing protein. Cricket powder, a whole food, makes a perfect addition. The insects are harvested at the conclusion of their natural life cycle; rinsed, roasted and ground.

Because of economies of scale, in comparison to other products on the grocery shelves, insect protein is not cheap. A 113-gram (quarter pound) bag of PC-brand cricket powder sells for $13.99, while a 573-mL (16 fl.oz) jar of cricket Bolognese is priced at $9.99. Once insect eating becomes mainstream and production rises full-scale, the costs of the products at the retail level will moderate, as it does with the introduction of any new products.

Cricket powder contains calcium iron and 100 percent of the daily values for vitamin B2 as well as being high in protein, with 13 g per 2-1/2-tbsp/19 -serving.

 Loblaw Companies Ltd. says it is adding cricket powder to its lineup of President's Choice products.
Loblaw Companies Ltd. says it is adding cricket powder to its lineup of President's Choice products. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"From a nutrition standpoint, it is really interesting because, not only are crickets a source of protein, but they also have other vitamins and minerals in there."
"Because cricket powders are still holding the full cricket, you're getting the iron, vitamin B2 and the calcium that's in the cricket itself, whereas you might not be getting that with a protein powder."
Vincci Tsui, registered dietition

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