Six or seven years ago Mountain Life sent me scouring deep into Vancouver’s Chinatown in search of bugs, to eat.
Besides the culinary and cultural appeal, the idea was to help build a case for the sustainable nature of insects as a foodstuff, a concept growing from our heightened awareness of environmental responsibility. Compared to livestock, insect protein has much less impact on our planet. Did you know that if a family of four substituted insect protein for even 1 day per week they could potentially save 650,000 litres of water per year?
words: Jess Smith
My friend and I hit the city and as we presumed there were bugs aplenty in Chinatown, but appealing..? Notsomuch. The Vancouver Aquarium offered candied specimens, which were totally palatable until we got to the bulge-eyed scorpion or cricket immortalized in the centre of the hard lollipop. We choked them down and realized just how entrenched our cultural biases were.
The misguided stigma attached to eating such critters is a topic in itself, and one that Coast Protein, a newly sprung company from Vancouver is ready to tackle alongside the discussions of environmental sustainability and responsibility.
“Why are people happy to eat processed meat pumped full of hormones but are grossed out by real food?” asks Coast Protein founder Dylan Jones, who spent his upbringing on organic cattle ranches in the summers and exploring the wilderness of BC and the Yukon. During a trip to Southeast Asia Jones found himself snacking on salty, spicy fried crickets, shoving them down like popcorn, enjoying the savoury crunch and learning just how protein-packed the little guys were.
Pound for pound, crickets contain more than twice as much protein as steak and are CFIA regulated for human consumption. After a bit of investigating Jones discovered that over 80% of countries already consume insects–some 2 billion people–so why shouldn’t North America? Realizing that whole bugs might be a stretch for many North American diners, he decided that protein bars made from cricket flour would be the most viable first step (Crickets are powerhouses, 65% protein by weight).
Protein and cultural enlightenment aside, the real turning point came when as Jones learned more about the dire situation humanity faces in terms of environmental issues pertaining to agriculture.
Eyeing over a 2013 UN Food And Agricultural Report Jones went bug-eyed over some of the statistics. 70% of all fresh water goes towards animal agriculture, that’s a lot of water “wasted” that could be used better by humans and plants the world over. By mass, crickets produce 100x less methane than cattle and are also 12x more efficient at converting feed into protein.
Ryan Goldin, VP of Sales and Marketing at Entomo Farms, where Coast Protein sources their cricket protein powder from, says that “insects are a robust source of nutrients such as essential amino acids, Vitamin B-12, and prebiotic fibre for a healthy gut biome, that can be prepared deliciously in thousands of ways. And while we can’t feed the world with wild harvesting like our ancestors did, we can farm insects using far less arable land and water than other food sources, making them a healthy environmental choice as well.”
Chris Baird, Director of Marketing at Coast Protein notes that “customers were a lot more accepting of the idea then we initially anticipated, especially athletes who are always looking for more complete, nutritionally-dense proteins. Our product is also very popular amongst young families who are becoming more conscious of the foods they feed their babies and children.”
Baird understands the possible hesitation behind popping a squiggly legged invertebrate into your mouth and suggests that using a protein powder in smoothies and shakes as a good way to ease into the program.
“Cricket protein is a more nutritious alternative to other protein sources because it has a full range of vitamins and amino acids”, he says. “Plus because of all the vitamins and nutrients, we don’t need to fortify it with any artificial additives and can just focus on making it taste great. Our goal is not to get people to stop eating meat entirely, but to introduce the idea of insect protein into their diet to reduce the amount of meat they consume on a weekly basis.”
Coast Protein has launched its new products on Kickstarter and will offer Dark Chocolate Raisin and Peanut Butter bars, both of which have 10g protein per bar and are high in Iron, Calcium, Vitamin B12. The bars also boast no dairy, no soy, no gluten and all sugars are derived from natural sources like honey and dried fruit.
The Coast Protein Kickstarter campaign will run until March 31, with the two aforementioned flavours of bars and three flavours of powders available at a discount. The campaign goal is $20,000 and if it reaches the target, Coast Protein has pledged to plant 10,000 trees in conjunction with a local tree planting company.
But how about the actual eating? My boyfriend stepped in to become the test subject for tasting the bars, as I felt that an unbiased, “blind tasting” format was most apt. His notes read something along these lines:
– Peanut Butter Bar: “A bit salty, a bit nutty and definitely delicious.”
– Dark Chocolate Raisin: “Quite rich, a little savory, a good mix and balance of flavors and totally palatable. Be prepared for a solid flavor punch in the mouth.”
So, there you have it folks, nothing to suggest he was even aware of, or turned off by, the cricket party going on inside these bars of protein-packed perfection. Coast Protein bars are pure and simple, flavourful and packed with sustainable goodness. Check out the Kickstarter here.