The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Could cricket flour become the next bug thing in baking?

As hard as it is to imagine, we may one day blather on about silkworm pupae the way we do now about a medium-rare bone-in ribeye. We may have little choice in the matter. Beef may be beyond our budget by 2050 when it's expected to become an "extreme luxury" due to its production and environmental costs.

Bugs have been hailed as our saviors for years, willing to die for our sins against nature. Businesses such as Bizarre Food , Don Bugito and BugGrub have already started pushing Jungle Trail Mix, mole crickets and other snack critters on a squeamish public, but smarter companies try to ease us into an insect diet via products that bare no resemblance to the anatomy of a creepy-crawly. One such company is San Francisco-based Bitty Foods, which sells a cricket-based baking flour and various cookies prepared with the bug dust.

Bitty co-founder Megan Miller gave a Ted Talk in 2014 to lay out her reasons why we should be wolfing down crickets, mealworms and other low-to-the-ground proteins. Among her points:

• Our current agricultural system cannot scale up to feed the 9 billion people expected to live on Earth in 2050.

• Crickets are nutritious: They have healthy fats, vitamins and minerals and "around 70 grams of protein per serving," she noted.

• Insects are "the most efficient form of protein on planet Earth," she pointed out. If we all switched to a bug-based diet, we could reclaim some of the 30 percent of the Earth's surface now used to raise and feed livestock. We could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent and lower food costs by 33 percent. “I can’t think of another food source that could have this kind of impact on both the environment and the global economy, and that, in a nutshell, is why I eat bugs," she said.

• Insects are served at Noma, which was Miller's attempt to make bugs sound cool by dropping a reference to Rene Redzepi's dining destination in Copenhagen, the reigning No. 1 restaurant in the world.

Plays for celebrity endorsements aside, Miller makes a strong intellectual case for consuming crickets. Now she just needs to make a more compelling gastronomic argument.

The other day, I had the opportunity to sample Bitty's orange ginger cookie made with "high-protein cricket flour." At the time, I didn't realize what I was biting into. I just reached for a cookie on my desk — one of numerous freebies sent our way as lures to write about a product — to fight hunger pains until lunch. I wasn't paying close attention to the treat at first.

But I was immediately slapped awake by the arid bite, as dry as a three-day-old scone. What's more, the cookie's orange zest and candied ginger seized control of the other ingredients like a military coup. If the cricket flour tried to express its inherent nuttiness, it was quickly jackbooted by those twin tyrants. Most troubling, though, were the gritty, chewy shreds in my mouth. As I worried over those last buggers, I thought: These feel like semi-pulverized cricket antennae trying to reconstitute themselves, Terminator-2-style.

I didn't finish the cookie.

So what's the takeaway? How about this: You can't change the world's eating habits with scary statistics and alarming forecasts alone. Bitty needs to borrow a page from Redzepi: He endorses insects as a "sustainable form of eating around the world," but he also adopts a chef's approach to bugging out at the table, using wood ants as an acid on beef tartare and grasshopper garum as a condiment.

He, in other words, still places high value on deliciousness.

You can judge Bitty Food's cricket-based products for yourself. Order online here.

Loading...