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Crickets taste more like Hot Cheetos than chicken

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Mercedes Mejia
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A bowl of edible crickets sits in Michigan Radio's recording studio.

I’m very lucky to be an intern for Stateside. So lucky, in fact, that I was provided lunch when I forgot to pack one this week.

On the menu: dried crickets with a dash of chili powder, garlic, salt, and lime.

The crickets were brought in by Julie Lesnik, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Wayne State University and the organizer of the first edible insect conference to take place in the United States.

Edible Insects Detroit: Exploring the Culture of Insects as Food and Feed opens up in the Motor City tonight. The conference will feature three days of talks from industry experts, a vendors’ expo and even a five-course dinner that includes crickets and cocktails.

Even though the event is the first of its kind in the country, Lesnik says that eating insects is far from a new idea.

“It’s been a part of the human diet for millions of years,” said Lesnik on Thursday’s Stateside. “It’s still a part of the diet pretty much all across the world except in the U.S., Canada [and] countries across Europe. It’s a nutritious resource that we’re just really ignoring here.”

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Credit Mercedes Mejia
Julie Lesnik is the organizer of Edible Insects Detroit, the first conference of its kind to take place in the United States.

Insects are considered an animal food, in that they provide the same types of protein and essential amino acids that beef and pork do, for example. That includes the crickets Lesnik brought in to Michigan Radio from Detroit Ento, an edible insect start-up.

I tried a few of the dried crickets that Lesnik brought in. They had a light crunch and a spicy kick – kind of like a Flamin’ Hot Cheeto.

But not everyone is willing to eat dried insects, and Lesnik acknowledges that. Insects can be incorporated into a variety of dishes, including baked goods like cupcakes and protein bars.

“When thinking about food culture, we want to understand [insects] as food,” said Lesnik. “If we can present it as something we already recognize as food, then we’re more willing to try it.”