You May Be Eating Bug Burgers Sooner Than You Think

A slew of start-ups aim to make crickets part of American cuisine.

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

In the late 1970s, the local steel industry in Youngstown, Ohio, began to evaporate. After decades of subsequent depopulation and stagnation, any kind of innovation that could carve out a new name or niche for the rustbelt town was a welcome development. Enter Big Cricket Farms, a promising new enterprise that popped up in Youngstown this past spring. To the surprise of many locals, BCF was exactly what it sounded like: a bug ranch.

These days, cricket farming isn’t an entirely novel concept. Companies like California’s Bassett’s Cricket Ranch have supplied bugs to pet food stores for decades. But Big Cricket Farms in Youngstown wants their creepy crawlies to wind up on our dinner plates, not in your pet’s food bowl. Entomophagy, or eating insects, is a widespread practice across the world—from Oaxacan grasshopper tacos to Chinese scorpion kebabs to Japanese wasp rice crackers. Yet in the West, despite the efforts of a few early bug lovers, the ick factor is just too powerful; insect eating has been taboo for far too long to support anything more than a few small novelty stores. Over the past decade though, attitudes have begun to change, and as eaters clamor for more adventurous fare, an ever-expanding array of companies like Big Cricket Farms are riding the wave. The Youngstown startup will partner with likeminded Boston company Six Foods to grind their crickets into flour and sell them as chips called “chirps,” hopefully hastening along the growing acceptance of bug food.

Bug businesses may actually be a good bet in the long term, and have a longer shelf life than most culinary fads. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization even released a report last year suggesting bug ranching was one of the world’s best options for sustainable food. Bugs, it confirmed, are health food. When compared pound for pound to beef, crickets provide almost as much protein, up to twice as much iron, half the calories, and only a quarter of the fat. Additionally, ranching insects releases only a fraction of the greenhouse gases, and requires significantly less land usage than raising cattle. It’s also worth mentioning that bugs can actually taste pretty good: Crickets make a hearty flour and smell like popcorn when roasted, mealworms taste of toasted nuts, and caterpillars have a rich flavor with hints of shrimp and tomato.

Thanks to years of tradition in countries like Thailand, where there are already about 15,000 independent insect farmers, new Western entrepreneurs already know quite a bit about what works. And with about 1,500 known edible bug species, there are options for every climate and every niche consumer. Thanks to companies like Thailand Unique, which markets delicacies like armor tail scorpion vodka, and bugapoop tea bags to Western consumers, we even already know a little about what’s trending in the world of arthropod delicacies.

The FAO’s report was a real eyebrow-raiser for those who still shriek when they see a cockroach scurry across their kitchen floor, but many forward-thinking foodies have been quietly building up a serious entomophagy scene over the last few years. There are already two cricket-based protein bars available in the U.S., Chapul and Exo. Looking to make bugs more palatable to the squeamish, some farmers in Berkeley are experimenting with feeding regimes to naturally imbue crickets with honey and other flavorings. On the DIY side, longtime edible bug farmers World Entomophagy make flours and pancake mixes branded as “chocolate chirp,” and Tiny Farms, a bug outlet in Silicon Valley, now sells Open Bug Farms kits for the enterprising foodie to start his or her own backyard bug food garden. There’s even an Austin-based group, Little Herds, solely dedicated to promoting the insect business in America.

It’s likely that taboos around eating bug-based foods will continue to fall away as they get cheaper and easier to find. One wild night when a friend convinces you to eat a wasp cracker on a dare or order grasshoppers at a restaurant just to see what they’re like can easily turn into a lifetime love of eating insects. Hopping on board with this growing trend would be beneficial for both our health and for our planet.

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet