Six Foods may be the worst thing to come out of Youngstown, Ohio since Communist Party chairman Gus Hall. Like every Halloween trick-or-treat nightmare come to life, it’s obsessed with baking bugs into chips and then selling those chips to people. Think of every overpriced and unwanted bag of fair trade, gluten free bag of chips sitting at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s filled with pointlessly exotic ingredients that no one wants to buy. Then add a sprinkling of genuine horror and environmentalism. Voila.
A TWITCHING mass of European house crickets clings to a maze of meshed cardboard in a tent about the size of a minivan. They are inside their new home, an abandoned warehouse in Youngstown, Ohio, where they will prosper until being killed, ground into “flour” and baked into cookies and tortilla chips.
Forty years ago this would have been the opening of a monster movie. Now it’s the result of a Kickstarter project to create environmentally sound foods… because cows emit too many greenhouse gasses compared to insects. There’s just one problem. Bugs are disgusting, in more ways than the obvious. On Kickstarter, Six Foods promised to feed their bugs “organic” food. But it may not be that easy.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says it doesn’t know of any relevant legislation that covers the production of insects as human food, which makes farming them a risky business. This results in some legal quirks. “You are not allowed to slaughter your animal on the farm,” says Arnold Van Huis, an entomologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and one of the authors on the UN report. “Because insects are animals they are subject to the same legislation. You need a separate slaughterhouse, which is totally crazy.”
Or a really big flyswatter.
Kevin Bachhuber, who founded Big Cricket Farms, as it isn’t subject to the same level of scrutiny as food destined for people. This means there is a lack of transparency as to what the insects are being fed. “Some of those places are feeding their insects gone-off dog food, and that’s obviously not OK for human consumption,” he says.
Neither are bugs.
Even a whiff of a problem, like a food-borne illness caused by eating insects, would be a disaster. “It would tank our entire newborn industry,” says Bachhuber.
Sure, you wouldn’t want anything else to put people off eating bugs. The UN report that this real life horror movie is based on accused Westerners of being racist for not eating bugs. Sadly the UN delegates have yet to sample what they would like the poors to eat.
Instead they made do with, “Sugar Cane Glazed Chilean Sea Bass, Skillet Seared Atlantic Salmon, New Zealand Rack of Lamb, Roasted Loin of Lamb, Crispy Red Snapper with Langoustine and Medallion of Filet Mignon.”
And who thought up bug chips? Laura D’Asaro, an African Studies major, Rose Wang, a Psychology major and Meryl Natow, an MFA student in Design for Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts. In other words, liberal unemployables.
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