A new food plant in Canada may be bringing the “Eat the Bugs” movement closer to home for Americans. The cricket production facility is now the world’s largest “alternative protein” manufacturer.
The insect production facility in London, Ontario, is operated by Aspire Food Group, which announced last month that the plant would produce around ten tons of crickets annually for North American consumption.
Aspire’s website says the company is a pioneer in the movement to “produce exceptionally high-quality protein with a low environmental footprint.” It adds that the firm is developing “autonomous robotics” and modern distribution systems to “farm our insects from hatch-to-harvest.”
It touts its manufacturing process as a system that other companies could build almost anywhere at comparatively low cost.
According to Healthline, crickets provide fat, minerals, vitamins, and fiber that supports human gut health.
A report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says that although Western culture might consider eating insects unusual, they are “commonly consumed as a food source in many regions of the world.”
The report finds that Western people “view entomophagy with disgust and associate eating insects with primitive behavior.” The U.N. group claims that prejudice has caused insects to be neglected in agricultural development.
Edith Cowan University School of Medicine professor Michelle Colgrave told reporters that more than 2 billion people worldwide currently eat insects daily. She believes that insects should be considered as a “sustainable solution” for providing protein from sources other than traditional animal production.
Colgrave did say that insects can cause pathogenic contamination in humans as well as allergic reactions. There is a “significant overlap in allergenic proteins” between crickets and shellfish like crabs and shrimp. Colgrave said that is because of the close biological relationship that crickets and mealworms have with crustaceans.
Colgrave said that the allergy issues can be addressed by ensuring that foods based on insects are tested and correctly labeled to protect persons who are allergic to shellfish or insects.
The professor said that she estimates that crickets and many other kinds of insects might be essential for human food sources by 2050, when there will be around 9.7 billion people on Earth.