Saturday, March 30, 2013

Feeding the Undernourished ...with Crickets.


The following is from Scientific American and it addresses one potential solution for providing enough food for the over 9 billion mouths that are expected to be around the dinner table in a few decades. Read and comment


A new plan would let people grow their own crickets, which they would then sell to be dried, ground up, and turned into protein-rich flour to enrich baked goods. That cookie you're eating may one day pack an extra cricket-fueled punch.

Insects are not regular fare on Western menus, but a surprising number of people worldwide--perhaps as many as 2.5 billion--eat them happily on a regular basis. High in protein, low in fat, and rich in iron and omega-3, bugs like grasshoppers and cicadas are vital staples--a crunchier, and more sustainable, alternative to beef, pork, and lamb.
Now, a group of students at McGill University, in Montreal, has has a plan to produce edible insects on an industrial scale. The idea is to distribute cricket-producing kits to the world's slums as a way of improving diets, and giving people more income. Families would eat what they needed, while selling the rest for processing into flour, and other products.
We're proposing a factory to grind cricket-flour. "We're proposing a factory to grind cricket-flour with corn, wheat or rice, whatever is local, and then creating very normal looking food that has an additional boost to it," says Zev Thompson, one the students. "The flour is where we see most of our profitability." The cricket-enriched flour could help people lacking protein and iron.
The McGill team is one of five finalists for the 2013 Hult Prize, a global student start-up contest that's focusing on urban food security this year. The winning entry, which is announced this September, will $1 million in funding.
The initial kit design looks like an Ikea laundry basket--a light and cheap collapsible cylinder. The team says it could be capable of producing 11 pounds of crickets every two months. "We will probably charge for the kits, because that creates accountability," says Shobhita Soor, another of the students. "We envision we would weigh the crickets, and swap the kits in and out."
Some people are vegetarian for ecological reasons, but they are not opposed to eating insects. Between now and September, the students need to do more prototyping, and go on a research trip to gather information from its potential users. Soor says they also need to spend time in the kitchen, working on recipes for tortillas and flatbreads using cricket flour.
Thompson says crickets are not nearly as gross as they first appear. He compares them to shrimp or popcorn, and speculates that there might also be opportunities closer to home (something that other start-ups are also looking into, as we wrote about here).
"Having now eaten them, it seems normal," he says. "I wonder if crickets today are what sushi was 20 or 30 years ago--a weird exotic thing that breaks into the mainstream. Some people are vegetarian for ecological reasons, but they are not opposed to eating insects. So, we might find an interesting niche here as well


Jessica Y. Sanchez said...

This is a great way to help the supply of food and nourishment to other countries, but I think it’s insulting also. Yes, you want to work with what you have, but why is it okay for wealthier countries to offer those in poorer than them, solutions, such as eating bugs. I agree with the idea of finding a cheap, self-help method of supplying nourishment, but I think this should be a temporary fix and other avenues should be continued to help find another source.

Jessica Alba said...

I feel as though this is a smart idea with potentially very helpful benefits. Bugs are incredibly healthy for you, I remember reading one National Geographic article that labeled bugs with nutrition facts, and one cup of several different varieties had little calories and fat with large sums of protein and iron. Even in the more developed world, it wouldn't hurt for us to give this kind of branching out a shot. Poorer countries will already eat these insects because they use what they have and this mixing of insects and flour is a creative way to ensure that protein is added to every aspect of the meal it can be. This is also smart for those who are squeamish about the idea of eating bugs because not only will they not see the crickets, but they're taste will also be masked. This movement should be encouraged globally for it's sustainability nutrition, and the fact that it opens up new job opportunities to be a bug grinder or farmer is just icing on the cake.

Kay Mahoney said...

I think this is an excellent, innovative and sustainable idea for addressing the world's food crisis. Taking from a globally accepted cuisine involving the consumption of insects, this may be a practical way to get developed countries like the United States to begin more ecologically friendly food production. It takes away from use of crops for the grazing of livestock and possibly, by default, the methane emissions from livestock that contribute to climate change. The transformation of these protein-enriched insects into flour allow for nutrition to be easily accessible in all forms foods. As a long-time vegetarian, I believe I could support the consumption of insects because it is much more sustainable. It would be great to get such a source of protein that is otherwise very hard to substitute today. Along with this, vegetarians may find these substitutions acceptable because insects are in abundance and do not have a large prefrontal cortex, as many of the animals that our population consumes.

Christina F said...

This seems like a fantastic idea. Crickets are not typically a staple in the American diet, and this was the first time I have ever heard that these insects are high in protein, low in fat, and rich in iron and omega-3. It also seems like a wonderful and sustainable way to help improve the quality of life of people in developing nations. By providing families with these cricket-harvesting kits, they will be able to feed their own families a nutritious diet and sell the excess crickets to make some money. Also, as long as the flour produced from crickets tastes similar to that of regular corn or wheat flour, then the American consumer would be more open to incorporating it into their diet. Crickets may be strange to us, but in other parts of the world it is a part of the culture. It might take some time for people to get used to the idea, but with all of the potential benefits, it is hard to reject this wonderful opportunity.

Remy Gallo said...

These students have come up with a brilliant idea. It appears simple enough that it could work and they can possibly branch out and use the same system to grow other things. It doesn't sound normal to us but many country's eat insects regularly and some even consider them delicacies. The crickets will provide money and nutrition to people who can't afford them with their current wages. Also, if they can find a way to use the crickets in flour then poorer cultures will be able to make bread and other pastries. Hopefully this idea will catch on in first world countries because I can think of many areas in our country that can benefit from this idea as well.

Christie Homberg said...

I think once people get over the idea of eating bugs as a food source, there could really be something to this idea. Eating insects has been a normal thing in some cultures, any yet in more developed countries it's looked down upon. With the world's food crisis and the population growth, we're going to need to look past any stigmas associated with things like including insects into our diets. We need to see it for what it would really be; a solution.

Thomas Midolo said...

I find that this post is a very unusual idea that may in fact prove to be efficient. This new plan that lets people grow their own crickets and use them in their baked goods or any types of food may be an efficient way to solve hunger problems in developing countries. This quote " High in protein, low in fat, and rich in iron and omega-3, bugs like grasshoppers and cicadas are vital staples--a crunchier, and more sustainable, alternative to beef, pork, and lamb." is an interesting one because if one consumes enough crickets they can have a substantial source of vitamins and nutrients in their diet. This can help save lives and make people healthier. The idea of growing your own crickets may be a little difficult and unattractive however it may pay off in the long run.

Alexsys Grishaber said...

Although this idea seems a bit gross, I think that we could really benefit from this new idea. This could really help the food supply and increase the nutrition in many of the foods that we eat everyday. The less developed countries could really make a profit off of this system of food because they could be the main providers, having other countries seeking and wanting this product. I think that if there is a way to better our lifestyles than it should definitely be considered. However, Americans are not really good with making change but who knows what we will actually consider if it has to do with our own lives.

Ginger MacDougall said...

I think that as soon as people get past the initial idea of eating bugs, this could become a global movement with many positive benefits. This idea of eating crickets seems like an innovative idea and more sustainable food source, compared to many of those today. Although it may seem strange at first, after reading this article and researching it a bit, it is clear that there are various benefits. These insects are a source of vitamins and minerals, and proteins that all humans need in their diet, and could helping the problems of nutrition found in both developing and developed countries. They would also provide an income to families directly by allowing them to raise these crickets. After adequately feeding their own families, the excess crickets can be sold for extra income. I think that as an idea, it would take getting used to, but could definitely become a positive change

Jeff Prizzia said...

This is pretty cool idea but may lead to controversy once this idea is kicked off. The idea of supplying crickets to replace other staple foods is a good idea as long as it is cheap and eco friendly. I feel that since this is a new fresh idea, then you must start it out with the mindset of organic and helping improve sustainability. I would be curious to know if the corn and wheat they are using is organically grown and if it is then make sure it stays that way. Controversy will come into play when society finds out that there are bugs in the flour that was used to make the bread that they are eating. Another controversial factor will be to the countries that look at bugs as being a sign of poverty, these countries may be insulted with the fact that they are now taking poverty and eating it. If this new idea is accepted then it may lead to a paradigm shift and open many new doors to the future.

Jaclyn Barbato said...

I really hope crickets aren't comparable to shrimp or popcorn yikes! I believe this is a good and innovative idea however there are both positives and negatives. In extremely poverty stricken countries (outside the U.S), I feel as though this is a very viable solution. However, I'm referring to extreme cases (literally starving people, crickets > no food). I'll have to admit I am not personally comfortable with the idea of having cricket ground up into my flour. Also, since the article mentions that households will grow their own crickets, there may be unforeseen issues. I'm sure participants will be given some sort of instructions, but realistically, how many of us can be expected to successfully grow enough crickets to feed a family (w/surplus)? This is not necessarily a common 'hobby' and I'm sure there are many things that could possibly go wrong. I believe community gardens containing a VARIETY of different crops in rotation is just as viable of a solution and can be easily achieved without the building of a factory of manufacturing of some sort of bug-raising kit.

Laura Sorrentino said...

Something no one has really thought of yet....or at least pursued. I think it would be a great idea to use this method to help fix the increasing food scarcity problem, however these ideas should be implemented worldwide and not just in the poor countries. Maybe giving us some nutritional food would be good too! Also, how do we know this method will last? Will we not run out of this resource after awhile? will it produce enough to supply enough people and will it be efficient? There is still much research that should be considered when it comes to this, while it is a great idea, I think the idea can be expanded greatly.

Nikita Iyengar said...

I think that the author had a good way of explaining the situation by giving the example of sushi, and how 20-30 years ago it could have been looked at the way we are now looking at crickets because it is irregular and not mainstream. Throughout the whole article until that very moment when he gave the example of sushi, I was just disgusted and thought that it is just too odd to start going into the direction of ingesting insects, but with the way our revolution of food is enhancing, nothing is impossible nowadays. I believe that it would be a very difficult to implement this instrument however because I cannot imagine that impoverished people will buy into the fact that this gadget that produces food from crickets will not only nourish them but also give them a profit. Granted there are countries in the world where people already do eat insects in their daily food, but there are also numerous people who would just not give into eating them. I think it is an interesting concept but I feel that there have been better ideas than this.

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aziz savadogo said...

I agree with thompson when he says that crickets are not nearly as gross as they first appear,I persionally tried grilled cricket before and they tested good. Focusing on insects producing in order to reach a more sustainable and hunger free world is I think a great idea,as the article pointed out billions of people around the world already eat insects so it's not a health issue but a cultural issue. Ecologically speaking, crickets consumption will decrease cattle farming,responsible for a lot of the worlds' pollution and also free up land that could be used to produce other crops.
Socially speaking, the kit will help developimg countries eradicate hunger.
I disagree with the approach of the students to only focus on developing markets because most of the world pollution comes from developed countries and all of the worlds' food waste come from developed countries. Ads campaign should be done in developed countries to promote and show the unharmfulness of eating cricket, focusing on developed countries will be better ecologically speaking than focusing on developing countries.

Davin Ajodhasingh said...

We have locational food shortages and unequal distribution so if a population can get the nutrients they need by eating crickets, then i don't see the problem with it. I know cricket is a delicacy in South East Asian countries, cooked different ways. The concept will only seem foreign to those that are unfamiliar with other cultures

Chelsey Perman said...

Though this idea could be beneficial to our growing population and help give the people in need an inexpensive source of protein, many people may be opposed to the thought of consuming insects. I don't believe that crickets will become a long term solution because many people may be against the idea of it, especially with the increasing rate of vegetarians today. I was surprised to read that crickets could be made into a flour and contain a good source of protein in them. I have yet to find any restaurants that have crickets on their menu, but I would not be surprised to see it in our growing society.

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