Insects. Food of the future?
A tortilla chip, a little salsa, and a crunchy roasted grasshopper on top.
Does that sound appealing to you?
We took the debatably-appetizing appetizer to people in Ottawa’s Byward Market where many people politely refused. “I don’t think I like the idea of eating insects,” said one young woman. “I’d normally stick to regular food.”
For roughly one third of the world, however, insects are regular food. “Some 2 billion people in the world eat insects,” says Gabriel Mott of McGill University. “They want to eat insects.”
Mott is a member of a McGill-based group called Aspire that wants to use mass-production insect farming to create a reliable, affordble, and sustainable food source for the urban poor. Insects are rich in protein and iron and require a fraction of the cost and space of raising livestock.
The idea has garnered some major attention. Late last year Aspire beat out 11,000 other entries to win the $1-million Hult Prize for social entrepreneurship. They were presented the award by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
They’ve already started pilot projects in Mexico and Ghana.
But farming insects is one thing. Selling them to finicky eaters is another.
Mott says they are trying to accommodate local tastes. In Mexico, for example, grasshoppers are popular. Other parts of the world have other preferences.
One of the ideas they are pursuing for the insect-averse North American market is insect flour. “If you make a tortilla that’s 50% cricket flour people prefer that over 100% flour tortillas. It tastes better.”
He admits insects are an acquired taste. He points out “20 years ago it would be hard to convince anyone in North America to eat sushi.” Now there are sushi restaurants everywhere.
If we can convince ourselves to love raw fish, can roasted grasshoppers be far behind?