By Rose Wang
My college roommate, Laura D’Asaro, has been off and on vegetarian her whole life, because she has had environmental and moral qualms about eating meat. So when she went to Tanzania one summer and ate a fried caterpillar, it was love at first taste. Not only was the caterpillar delicious, but she also discovered a new way to eat meat that was much more sustainable and moral.
It takes over 2,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef but only 1 gallon of water to produce one pound of many insects. Plus, insects are raised humanely with no factory farming and antibiotics, and many studies suggest that insects have no pain receptors and hence do not feel pain.
This past summer, the United Nations released a report that revealed their agenda to bring insects as a food to the Western world. In the report, they stated the livestock industry produces 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all forms of transportation combined, but insects produce just 1% as many greenhouse gas emissions as cows. When Laura read the report, she saw an opportunity to revolutionize the impact of the human industrial food complex upon the environment.
But the billion-dollar question remained — how are we going to get Americans to eat insects?
Laura sent the report to me to get my thoughts. Luckily for her, I had just come back from China, where a friend had dared me to eat a fried scorpion. To my surprise, it tasted great: like shrimp, but without the fishiness. I was totally an insect believer, and so together with our friend, Meryl Natow, we started this journey to figure out how to get Americans to eat insects.
We started cooking with live crickets, honey caterpillars, and grain caterpillars whole. That idea was vetoed as soon as my friend jumped out of his chair when he saw the bugs. We then tried processing the insects so they looked liked ground meat and put it in tacos. One day, we brought our tacos to the Harvard Innovation Lab for a pitch competition. We put them in the fridge, unlabeled, not even thinking that people would be around the i-lab on a Sunday. When we came back to the fridge two hours later, 35 of the tacos were gone and we only had 5 left for the judges. People had liked the tacos so much that they kept coming back for more; little did they know that they were eating caterpillars. Talk about a perfectly accidental social experiment!
What we learned from our Harvard Innovation Lab accident is that some Americans will eat insects as long they can’t see that they are eating insects. So, we pivoted and turned crickets into a dried flour to make our Chocolate Chirp Cookies and cricket chips, or Chirps. Finally, we hit our sweet spot, because not only did people love our chips and cookies, but they also loved the fact that they were eating healthy snacks because dried crickets are 70% protein. On Tuesday, we launched our Kickstarter campaign for our cricket chips, or Chirps, and things are going so well! Just after the first day, we raised $15,000, half of our goal!
We are so excited about our burgeoning business, because the implications of insect-eating on global sustainability are huge. We hope you will join us in our movement to bring insect foods to America and help save the world, one bug bite at a time.