BUG BITES: Sweet Revenge

They creep and they crawl, but you may want to start eating them soon.

By Abby Lieberman & Marie Gentric

By the year 2050, the world’s population is expected to grow by nearly two billion, to a whopping 10 billion people. In order to meet the demands of feeding a population hungry for protein, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says current food production needs to virtually double. Meat and fish alone will not be enough to sustain the growing population and, in a 2013 report about food security, it offered an alternative approach to sustainable eating: edible insects.

Though much of the world has been consuming bugs since the beginning of time, in America and Europe, insects are largely considered a nuisance, dirty, and repulsive. We asked New Yorkers if they would chow down on creepy crawlers.

What they may not realize is that entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, is an environmentally friendly, nutritious and healthy way to address rising food demands. Globally, around 2 billion people already incorporate insects in their daily diet, according to the FAO.

For the last 15 years, Juan Manuel Gutierrez and his wife, have been looking for a way to fill a void in the food world. In 2015, they co-founded Merci Mercado, importing insects and turning them into high-end delicacies.

Merci Mercado farms the grasshoppers and worms in Oaxaca, an area of Southern Mexico, where grasshoppers, or chapulines, are a local delicacy. In this cultural and culinary region, the edible critters are found in restaurants, markets, and homes.

Check out some of the dishes we ate!

And there’s more…

Some Mexican immigrants are bringing their rich culinary traditions to American palates with dishes like these…

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYWqSoUhrTD/?taken-by=abbylieberman29

Mario Hernandez is the chef at Temerario and Black Ant restaurants. He learned to cook grasshoppers with his grandmother when he was a child.

Similar to Hernandez, Noe Rosendo of Toloache restaurant is from Oaxaca and cooks grasshoppers in New York.

As chefs like Mario Hernandez and Noe Rosendo source edible insects from Mexico, some foodies like Robyn Shapiro look to other areas of the world. Last year, Shapiro founded Seek Food, which commercializes crickets from Asia and transforms them into snacks with flavors, such as cinnamon, almond, coconut, and crunch granola. “I am trying to introduce people to the idea of eating crickets, not necessarily to the taste,” Shapiro explains. She wants people to eat something nutritious and familiar at the same time.

“Some people said: oh, if you didn’t tell me, I would not even know there are insects inside!” — Robyn Shapiro, Seek Food
Seek Snack Bites — Pictures supplied by Seek Food website

Raising Crickets

Shapiro’s ideas are similar to those of Stacie Goldin, Media Specialist at Entomo Farms, who says she tries to incorporate cricket products into “basic foods that people love.” Stacie’s husband Jarrod and his brothers were already farming insects for the reptile trade and, when the 2013 report came out, they decided to expand that farming to human grade.

What began as a 10,000 sq ft facility in Norwood, Ontario, has grown into a 90,000 sq ft cricket farm. Now called Entomo Farms, the company claims to be the largest cricket farm in North America.

“Watching the industry grow has been mind-blowing.” — Stacie Goldin, Entomo Farms

At Entomo farms the crickets are “free-range,” meaning they have the freedom to hop around and in a rural agrarian atmosphere. Some cricket farmers are seeing that freedom at an even broader range, like Maria Aiolova, educator, architect, and urban designer at Terreform ONE.

Terreform ONEfarm, in Brooklyn — Pictures supplied by Terreform ONE website

The New York based architectural group has created a modular edible insect farm and, “the whole idea was to design this modular cricket farm that allows you to grow crickets in a variable, efficient, and sanitary way,” Aiolova says.

In designing the structure, Aiolova explains that Terreform ONE sought a way “to grow food very quickly and efficiently and integrate production and farming into structures of a building.”

Although foodies and environmentalists alike are excited about the idea that insects could someday be found on the shelves of every supermarket in America, Renata Blumberg, Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Food Studies at Montclair State University in New Jersey warns, “There is debate in the research right now.” She says, “Although research is positive, it is too early to generalize it to all insects and hard to have a universal conclusion.”