by David Lepeska
Grasshopper fajitas, mealworm fried rice, Bee-LT’s and similar delicacies will be on the menu for a public tasting buffet in October at the University of Chicago. The insect-dominated bill of fare is the idea of Matthew Krisiloff, a sophomore from California who last year founded Entom Foods, a start-up that seeks to make bugs a staple of the American diet.
“I really want to establish a dialogue about insects as a serious food possibility,” said Mr. Krisiloff, 19, who runs the company with four classmates. “We want to show that these are very acceptable flavors and tastes.”
The idea, Mr. Krisiloff said, came to him last fall in a course on contemporary global issues when he learned that by 2050 the world’s population is expected to reach nine billion, doubling the demand for meat.
“I remembered reading an obscure fact when I was younger that insects are extremely resource-efficient, and that they are eaten by many populations all over the world,” he said.
Some 80 percent of humanity eats insects, and raising them would cost the environment a fraction of what it does to raise pigs or cattle. Ten grams of feed produces one gram of beef or three pounds of pork, but it can yield nine grams of edible insect meat, according to Arnold van Huis, an entomologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands who has been studying entomophagy, or insect consumption, since the mid-90’s.
Ten times less methane and 300 times less nitrous oxide are emitted in the breeding of many edible insects compared with livestock, Mr. van Huis said. Nutritionally, most insect meat has about the same amount of protein, iron and vitamins as beef, but less fat.
Insects can be legally raised for human consumption because the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act categorizes insects as food, if that is their intended use.
“I’m seeing a lot of people getting onto this bandwagon of eating bugs, as the environmental aspect has given it another boost,” said David George Gordon, author of “The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook,” who has advocated edible insects for 15 years.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has begun promoting edible insects around the globe and categorizes 1,700 species of them. A company near Amsterdam sells pesto-flavored bug nuggets in Dutch grocery stores, and grasshoppers and other insects, usually ground, appear in appetizers and specialty cocktails in a handful of American restaurants.
For now, Entom Foods is looking to develop insect-based animal feeds, particularly for aquaponics. But Mr. Krisiloff’s primary goal remains getting processed insect meat cutlets, or a similar product, into American grocery stores.
Mr. Gordon said: “I think there would be a small segment of the American public that would be interested in such a product, largely because of the environmental benefits. If Entom can build a case for why it’s good for you, they could find some success.”
--- ran in the Aug 21, 2011, NY Times, in partnership with the Chicago News Cooperative