I Ate a Cricket!

Human instinct makes us fear the unknown. That’s precisely why my initial reaction to the idea of eating crickets was “no way!” But then I thought about it…and I read about the nutritional benefits of insects…and I considered how we humans foolishly recognize chemical-laden garbage-food cooked-up in a factory as being more palatable than many of the wholly organic foods of the earth. And so I thought, if I really care about health, and the environment, I should probably try one.

So I did. I ate a cricket. First a flavoured one. Then a plain one. And then even a mealworm! The thought of it is still a little unsettling, but I have to admit, they actually tasted good! In fact they tasted like chips!

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Ryan Goldin, the co-owner/founder of Entomo Farms and purveyor of my first foray with insect nutrition, said “99% of people react positively and are surprised by how good they taste.”

Goldin has been farming insects for years. He originally bred insects as feed for pets but now breeds them as a superfood for humans. He says the idea came a few years ago after the WHO and FAO released a report highlighting edible insect’s potential as a solution to our planet’s food insecurity issues. The fact is, there are over 18 000 edible insects, and worldwide a large part of many people’s diets consist of insects.

Insects offer a number of health benefits. Crickets, for instance, are high in protein, calcium, prebiotics, vitamin B-12 and iron. They also have a highly desirable ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids.

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Beyond their nutritional benefits, insects are also a sustainable choice. If a family of four replaced one traditional meal a week with insect protein they’d save over 650 000 litres of fresh water each year.

From an anthropological point-of-view, it seems that humans were meant to eat insects, evidenced by the fact that humans contain the chitinase enzyme that’s needed to digest chitin, a fiber found in insect exoskeletons.

Goldin farms his insects through their full life cycle from egg to adult. At six weeks old, the crickets are harvested and taken to a health inspection facility, then roasted in an oven. After which they can be flavoured or crushed into powder. Goldin said he’d love to see insects in more kids’ snacks, he even said his son takes little bags to school as a snack. That being said, it’s important to realize that adding insects to your diet doesn’t mean you have to start eating whole insects. Cricket powder can be incorporated into breads, soups and stir frys (recipes for which can be found on Entomo Farms’ website), meaning you can easily benefit from the health benefits of insects without actually eating whole crickets.

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Currently both whole insects and powders can be bought from the Entomo Farms website. They also distribute their products to a number of health food stores and to other food companies to be incorporated in various food products. Is this the future of food? Only time will tell, but Goldin says, he definitely “sees it becoming more mainstream.”

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RFF #96 – In the 1950s, Quaker Oats Co. sponsored research that fed radioactive minerals to institutionalized children

The unsuspecting boys were told that they were going to be part of a “Science Club.” Meanwhile, the parents were told that their children would be fed a diet high in nutrients, which technically was true, but of course they failed to mention that the nutrients were radioactively labelled!

In case you’re wondering, researchers radioactively labelled the nutrients to enable them to track their absorption in the body. One theory is that they wanted to ensure that the cereal didn’t decrease the absorption of calcium and iron in fortified milk.

Despite the fact that the children received a dose of radiation that is equivalent to 50 chest x-rays, the task force that investigated this in the 1990s concluded that “no significant health effects were incurred.” Nevertheless, some of the subjects were financially compensated due to the lack of informed consent.

Filling out ethics applications is a task that most scientists dread. Unfortunately, it’s something I’ve been doing for the past few days. Nevertheless, stories such as this remind one of the importance of transparency in research, and thus makes the task slightly less onerous.

I learned about this fact from: A “Cold Case Episode” oddly enough, and http://tech.mit.edu/V115/N49/radiation.49n.html and http://www.disclose.tv/forum/the-fernald-experiments-t76342.html