One of the main problems with the standard western diet (aside from health issues) is the extremely large environmental footprint associated with its reliance on large servings of meat and other animal products. Growing animals for food, especially in modern "factory-farming" operations, is responsible for producing vast amounts of greenhouse gases, while also requiring substantial freshwater resources and contributing to water and air pollution.
A far more sustainable option for protein sources, and one that can produce 'meat' much more efficiently than other animal production methods, is insects, which can be 'farmed' more intensively, and with fewer inputs.
However, if you were to ask the average westerner if they would eat bugs, or if they have eaten bugs, you're likely to either get a blank look, as in "Say what?" or to get a loud and clear "No way!" than to get a positive response. Perhaps part of the reason for that is the availability of cheap (conventional and recognizable) food in many developed countries, and the fact that our cultural frame has pretty much one place for insects, and that's squashed flat under our heels or dead on the ground after being poisoned with pesticides.
In order to bring our environmental footprints more into line with a sustainable future, the current state of our food system is going to have to change, and assuming that not everyone is going to convert to a vegetarian or vegan diet, the next best solution is to start growing and eating more insects and insect products. But because of the incredibly finicky eating habits of people in the developed world, getting them to start eating something they've previously only considered to be a nuisance or pest might be a bit of a challenge. Six Foods, however, thinks they have the answer, at least when it comes to convenience and snack foods.
Chirps are a new all-natural, high-protein, low fat chip, soon to be available in several different flavors, which combines beans, rice, and powdered crickets into a healthy and sustainable snack food. Each 5 oz bag of these chips, which are baked instead of fried, are said to have more protein (7g) than an egg, while only requiring a small fraction of the water that beef production does, and with 1/100th of the greenhouse gas emissions (compared to beef).
"Our Chirps, in comparison to potato chips, have 3x the protein, are gluten free, all natural and have half the fat. In just one serving you get 7 grams of protein." - Six Foods
The journey to making these crunchy cricket snacks was launched with (what else?) a Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $70,000 on an original $30,000 goal. The company's three founders, Laura D’Asaro, Rose Wang, and Meryl Natow, are all Harvard graduates who envisioned their product during Harvard Innovation Lab’s Venture Incubation Program last year. The team worked with a professional chef to perfect the recipe for the Chirps, and another variety, Chocolate Chirp Cookies, is also said to be in the works.
The Chirps, which are also GMO- and gluten-free, are available for preordering from the Six Foods website, and come in Hickory BBQ, Aged Cheddar, or Sea Salt varieties, with three 5 oz bags selling for $15.99 USD. The product is expected to ship in October of 2014, so even if you don't think you're going to love chips made from crickets, they might be a great addition to any Halloween parties you're planning. And if you're interested in more crickety goodness, you might enjoy the Six Foods co-founders rapping about eating bugs.