Meryl Natow wants you to eat crickets. They’re an excellent source of protein and take 1000 times less water to produce than beef with just 1% the greenhouse gases. 2.5 people in 80 countries worldwide already eat them. And, Natow swears, they taste good. Kind of like corn nuts.
So she’s putting them into a line of chips – called Chirps – along with cofounders Rose Wang and Laura D’Asaro. They run Six Foods (“because six legs are better than four”), a company they started as undergrads working at the Harvard Innovation Lab. Last spring, Six Foods raised more than $70,000 on Kickstarter to produce and ship out their first batch of Chirps, which will go out this month to Whole Foods and a number of specialty stores in Boston. Natow hopes Chirps will join other cricket snacks on the market, including Exo protein bars and Bitty cookies, in convincing Americans to seek out insect proteins instead of meat.
It’s a conversation that’s taking place on many fronts. In 2013, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization published a report suggesting insects could be the key to stabilizing an out-of-whack global food production system. We face a growing world population and a rising demand for meat at the same time we face a worsening climate crisis. Large-scale meat production is a major contributor to that crisis. Besides requiring drastically less water and emitting lowers levels of greenhouse gases, insect farming is easier on the land, produces animal waste that can be used as fertilizer, and reduces the transmission of zoonotic diseases. Insects can also be fed food waste and used as animal feed, reducing the need to dedicate land to the production of animal feed.
Natow’s excited to see how Six Foods can contribute. She, Wang, and D’Asaro have been working closely with their farmers, manufacturers, and vendors, in part because US regulators are still figuring out how to deal with insects. Six Foods is looking forward to building these relationships, to learning more about the potential of insect consumption, to expanding Chirps distribution chains and to experimenting with other cricket recipes in the future. Check out their website to keep abreast of new developments, and visit their blog to find bug recipes you can try at home.