Since beginning with QA magazine in 2004, I have toured nearly 50 food or beverage facilities to feature best practices in quality assurance, food safety, or food defense. Many of these visits included sampling of the product—to get the whole experience.
While the opportunity to taste such delicacies as Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes, Coca-Cola international beverages, Chef’s Garden gourmet produce, Ben & Jerry’s latest concoction, and Phillips Foods crab has always elicited a bit of envy and offers to “assist,” I found the enthusiasm for product sampling of the ingredient of this issue’s cover profile (“Eating Insects”) to be a quite a bit lower … including my own.
When I began my research on entomophagy (eating insects) and contacted businesses in the insects-as-human-food supply chain, I knew that the “whole experience” should include becoming an entomophagist myself—at least for the day. But I anticipated starting slowly, perhaps a bite or two of a protein bar made of cricket flour.
That, however, was not the way it was to be. Rather, after visiting Big Cricket Farm in Youngstown, Ohio, we headed directly over to Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts, where Executive Chef and Manager Brad Miller fixed us up his favorite dried cricket-topped hot dogs. So much for a slow start.
I have to admit that, even after touring the farm, seeing the live crickets being bred for food, and discussing the quality and safety steps of the process, I had not yet overcome the inherent Western culture “yuck factor” of eating bugs. (Or, perhaps it was because I saw the live cricket ingredients.) But, game that I am, I sprinkled crickets on my hot dog and took a bite.
Did the experience convert me? I have gained a vast appreciation for the individual and world health benefits of eating insects; I understand that 80% of the world indulges regularly; and I greatly admire the enthusiasm and excitement of those I met in this evolving industry. However … you needn’t expect to have crickets on the menu if I invite you over for dinner.
I will be less hesitant about trying such foods, and will encourage others to do the same, but generations of “yuck” isn’t overcome with a couple of bites. On the other hand, I do enjoy sushi and love a good unagi (eel) roll, so perhaps I, too, will evolve from braving a “California roll of insects” to enjoying a snack of fried crickets dipped in sauce as much as do those with whom I visited for “Eating Insects.”
The author is Editor of QA magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.