The foods we eat, the technology we use to produce and prepare our food and the way in which food is marketed and sold to us is continually evolving. In a previous article, ‘Healthy Meal Plans 2016‘, I explored the food trends that are likely to emerge in 2016, one of which is entomophagy.
For those of you who don’t know what entomophagy is, it is the consumption of insects. Now, I know what you’re all thinking: “Ew, gross who’d eat insects?” or “Yuck, you’d never get me eating something that lives in the garden and has that many legs”, and yes I do get it, but hang on a sec how can you judge something that you haven’t even tried?
Unfortunately, TV shows, such as ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!‘, have only served to strengthen the stigma associated with eating insects. Watching C-class celebs gagging on witchetty grubs is undeniably great entertainment, but it’s hardly making us lick our lips in glee. So, with the odds seemingly stacked quite highly against it, I want to take a closer look at entomophagy and discover why eating insects is apparently so good for us, why insects are now being seriously considered as an alternative food source and the ways in which we can introduce insects into our daily diets.
What’s so good about eating insects?
They may be tiny, but most insects pack a nutritional punch like no other and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) there are an estimated 1,462 different species of edible insects. Pretty incredible, right, but how can something so small, so spindly and so, well, so ‘unmeaty’ provide our bodies with anything even remotely nutritious? Here comes the science bit… basically, because insects are cold blooded it means that when they eat they are a lot more efficient at converting their food into protein because they don’t need to convert as much into energy. More food converted to protein = more protein gram for gram than the protein found in our more traditional dinner time meat. Combine this with the fact that insects are also high in calcium, iron and essential fats and et voilà you’ve got a nutritionists dream food right there!
FACT: Mealworms contain roughly the same amount of Omega 3 and 6 oils as fish.
80% of the world’s nations regularly enjoy insects as part of their diet, but it is something Western society cannot seem to get its head around. Knowing they are good for us is one thing, but I’m not entirely convinced that that’s enough to persuade everyone to try them. We all know sprouts are good for us, but that doesn’t mean we’re all piling our shopping baskets high with bags of brussels does it? So, what other benefits are there from eating insects?
- Sustainable – They’re small, they take up far less room than animals like cows and sheep, they eat less, they poo less, they drink less and they’re cheap.
- Abundant – Let’s face it they’re everywhere, so it really could be a serious solution to the world’s hunger problem.
- Tasty – No honestly, they really are! And look, to prove it to you, I have tried some of the tasty insect products from the innovative UK company, Grub.
FACT: 10kg of feed will give you 1kg of beef. Give the same amount of feed to a locust and you’ll get a staggering 9kg of locust meat!
The facts speak for themselves; insects are our future and it would be crazy to dismiss eating them purely on reasons of squeamishness and ultimately through lack of knowledge and our fear of the unknown. However, what may hinder us at this stage is the availability of edible insects. The world is full of millions and millions of insects, we all know that, but the thought of going out into the garden foraging for worms and grubs isn’t exactly appealing is it? And last time I checked, there wasn’t an insect aisle in my local Waitrose…which is where companies, like Grub, come in.
Where can I buy edible insects?
Grub was set up by friends Shami Radia and Neil Whippey after chatting at a party over a few drinks (it is where all the best ideas come from, after all!). Their mission was to source and sell tasty insects to the UK market and to promote it as a valuable, alternative and sustainable food source.
An idea that to many may seem ridiculous and unachievable has been born out of extensive research, a passion for what they believe in and a vast amount of hard work. Shami has a background in marketing, which saw him during one particular project, travel to Malawi in East Africa. It is here that he was first introduced to the human consumption of insects when he tasted roasted termites amongst a community of people who enjoyed not only the taste of what we consider a pest, but who also shared a collective joy and ceremony in their insect eating. This, combined with Neil’s background in food related TV and media, ignited the spark to persuade the UK market to share their passion for insects by creating flavoursome products that would suit the somewhat fussy British palate.
A huge task, I’m sure you’ll agree, but these guys were so determined and held such a strong belief in the nutritional benefits of insects that after six months of travel and research, they brought entomophagy back to London and in January 2014 the Grub website was launched. They currently sell the following products in their online store:
- 4 different flavours of roasted crickets; plain, chilli and lime, english herbs and salt and vinegar
- Buffalo worms
- Dark chocolate cricket nut fudge
and most excitingly, they are in the process of bringing their new Eat Grub Bar to market, which can be purchased exclusively online from their Eat Grub Bar Kickstarter campaign page.
The Eat Grub Bar has been formulated with the British palate in mind and unless you read the ingredients list, you would have absolutely no idea that it contained insects. Made from organic dark chocolate, dried mango, desiccated coconut, pumpkin seeds and honey, this deliciously different energy bar is seemingly not too dissimilar to other products on the market, but what stands it apart, what makes it way better, more unique and more healthy than the others is the addition of the protein packed power of the cricket flour. Yep, that’s right the Eat Grub Bar contains flour made from powdered crickets, an ingredient which has provided the solution to the problem of how to persuade people that eating insects is actually alright and in fact it’s really tasty!
FACT: Crickets only need 2kg of feed for every 1kg of body weight gain.
OK, problem solved, cricket flour could be the answer, I mean think of the potential. It could be used in smoothies, baking, food additives, other blends of flour and best of all you wouldn’t even know it had come from an insect. Ultimately, that’s what has been the main problem all along; change people’s mindset, educate them and the barriers start to come down. We eat honey without a problem, but if you think about it, if you really, truly break it down and think about it properly, what is honey? The Brazilian chef Alex Atala puts it in context for us, “What is honey? The excrement of an insect. If you actually consciously think about what honey is, it’ll disgust you. But we are familiar with it, we have an interpretation of it being sweet”. Likewise, prawns and other seafood, they are all not too dissimilar to insects, you could even describe them as the insects of the ocean, but most of us don’t have a problem with eating them. It is all a question of being open to new things, being willing to try new things and to stop viewing insects as annoying, dirty, disease ridden vermin.
Oh, there’s one other problem…the cost. Cricket flour is incredibly expensive and at the moment the only way to get it is to import it from one of the specialist farms in the US or Canada. Neil and Shami having been working hard over the past 8 months to promote the Eat Grub Bar as well as raising awareness of cricket flour and the value that a UK farmed supply of cricket powder could bring to their industry.
How can I help?
Since the 10th November and running for just 30 days, which means there are only 7 days left, the Eat Grub Bar has been launched as a Kickstarter campaign and Grub needs your help to get the first production of the bar up and running. If you’ve not heard of Kickstarter before, let me explain. Kickstarter is a global community that helps support new products by providing them with financial backing that is funded by you, the customer. It helps make ideas become a reality and in return you are not only given presents as a thank you and reward, but you also have the pleasure of knowing that you were involved in helping a product or service come to market and that you have helped someone’s vision become a reality. Grub needs £10,000 to help produce the Eat Grub Bars and have them ready for sale in April 2016. The current pledge total is over the half way mark, but they need a final push for these last few days.
Want to know what you can get in return for pledging your money and backing their campaign?
You could be rewarded with:
- A box of Eat Grub Bars
- An exclusive invite to become part of the research and development team at Grub
- A slap up insect meal in your home from Grub’s chef Seb Holmes
To make a pledge or for more information about the Eat Grub Bar visit:
And now, what I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for, drum roll please…my tasting session. I’m so incredibly excited to be trying the Eat Grub Bar and feel very privileged to have been sent my very own sample, thanks Neil!
To see my full tasting experience of the Eat Grub Bar along with the english herb flavoured crickets, check out the video below.