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Bug bites

By Kieran Delamont

With their spindly legs and crunchy exoskeletons, insects might be hard to fathom on a typical North American dinner plate. But they could be the food of the future. Lauded for their health benefits and sustainability, edible insect products — mainly crickets — are showing up more often on menus and store shelves.

Nutritional powerhouses

For many cultures around the world, insects are a staple of the local diet. Here in the West, there’s an increasing awareness that entomophagy — the act of eating insects — is good for you. Crickets, for example, provide more protein than beef and up to five times more iron. Crickets are also high in vitamin B-12, potassium, calcium, magnesium and amino acids.

For those who avoid meat, insects may help bridge the nutritional gap: crickets, writes Rachael Lacey in a University of Michigan study, offer the “potential for people to receive the most sought-after health benefits of meat.”

Battling global hunger

With the world’s population expected to top nine billion by 2050, our reliance on the meat industry is unsustainable. Globally, 70 percent of agricultural land is dedicated either to livestock or growing food for livestock, accounting for about 12 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Cricket cultivation, however, requires substantially fewer resources than beef or even soy production. “We’re not saying let’s ban the beef industry,” says Stacie Goldin, community manager at the largest insect farm in North America, Entomo Farms near Norwood, Ont. “We’re saying we can’t keep on the way we’re keeping on.”

Cricket cuisine

It’s getting easier to incorporate crickets into your diet. Cricket powder, for instance, can be added to soups and stews, as well as baked goods. As part of an Earth Week promotion in April, the Canadian restaurant chain Milestones offered roasted chili-lime crickets in a margarita. Goldin compares crickets to other now-popular foods that were once shunned. “Think about how hard it was for people to start eating quinoa,” she says. “Here, we’re trying to get people to eat this food that’s unbelievably healthy. It just happens to be bugs that you’ve been told forever, ‘Why would you ever eat that?’” 

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