Crickets: The "gateway bug"
Who’s up for a cricket burger? Maybe a cricket muffin?
That might be a tough sell for the average Michigan consumer, but Anthony Hatinger and Theodore Kozerski are giving it a try.
They’re co-founders of Detroit Ento, Detroit’s first sustainable protein research and development firm. And they’re preaching the gospel of crickets for food, feed and pharmaceuticals.
According to Hatinger, crickets are the perfect introduction to bugs-as-food.
“They’re high protein, they have very easy-to-digest exoskeletons, and they have a very high nutrient ratio of calcium and vitamin B-12,” he says. “It’s the gateway bug.”
When you think of eating insects, it’s likely you imagine the whole bug sauteed or dipped in chocolate. But Kozerski explains that's not the direction they’re going.
He tells us that the crickets are milled “into a flour, or more appropriately, a meal,” adding that there are national food producers already using the stuff.
Kozerski says protein powders, baking mixes, paleo protein bars and tortilla “Chirps” are readily available to consumers. Hatinger adds that there is a burger joint in Royal Oak that now serves cricket protein shakes.
Hatinger describes the cricket meal’s flavor as “indistinguishable.”
“You wouldn’t find any pieces in it, you wouldn’t have any adverse tastes. On its own it kind of has a sandy texture and it tastes, some would say, like raw cacao nibs. Or like the dried shrimp you get from Vietnamese markets.”
“Unless you’re eating it on its own, it would be completely blended as if it were another fortified ingredient,” Hatinger says. “So you wouldn’t know.”
He says that on top of being nutritious, utilizing crickets as an edible protein source is far more efficient and sustainable than our current livestock-based industry.
“[Livestock’s] not really the most efficient. It takes up a lot of land, a lot of water, a lot of resources,” Hatinger says. “So insects can be used for food, feed, and pharma.”
For those of you still having trouble warming up to the idea, Hatinger compares their position to where sushi was only a few decades ago: most Americans were first turned off by the idea, but it didn’t take long for it to explode in popularity.
Hatinger tells us that disparity between cricket meal supply and demand is a great opportunity to explore options in the market.
“There’s only a few farms in the country doing this, and there’s over 50 countries exploding to get this out on the marketplace," he says. "And so we’re in a very good spot, kind of ahead of the curve."
Hatinger says they’ve just formed their LLC and that their next step will be to move from home-based production to a small-scale operation, “under 1000 square feet.” They hope to develop more sample products and collect more research data that will eventually help them secure financing to further increase the scale of their operation.
-Ryan Grimes, Stateside