Sorry for the sudden question, but have you ever eaten an insect? Although I have hated bugs and insects all my life, I have tried some insect food products (sweets and snacks made with cricket powder) to write this article.
How was the taste? You will know the answer in the latter part.
・ No images with bugs and insects are shown on this page for those who do not like them;
・ Not many details about food allergy from crickets have been proved, so please do not try cricket products if you are allergic to Crustaceans such as shrimps and crabs.
Will Insect Food Save the Food Crisis?
Due to the constant rise of the world population today, a global food crisis is expected to occur in the future while environmental degradation is still on the increase. Now methods for sustainable food production are being pursued all over the world, and "Insect Food" is getting attention. Recently, Japanese mass media often report about the products made with crickets raised for human consumption, and people's reactions are a mix of for and against. Maybe, people with a negative opinion seem to be a lot more than the other group.
"Will we have to eat insects instead of meat and fish?"
"Bugs and insects are not food for human beings in the first place."
"Are they really safe? No risk to the human body?"
"Aren't there any other measurements before encouraging insect food options?"
These opinions make us think it is hard to reach a future with normal consumption of insect food in Japan.
The reason why people are paying attention to cricket food comes from the fact that we have a global goal to "establish a sustainable food culture", as I mentioned above. Raising livestock, such as cattle, pigs, poultry, etc., requires vast amounts of feed crops and water, being a huge environmental burden by emitting CO2, methane, and other greenhouse gases. However, compared to feeding livestock, raising insects needs much fewer resources and can reduce the burden on the environment. Also, the nutritional fact that crickets can be a good source of protein seems to be another reason for the interest.
Why Do Many Japanese Have a Negative Impression?
In some parts of Japan, there has been a habit of eating insects for a long time. It is considered that people incorporated insects into their diet because they were a precious protein source. Among some insect delicacies, "蜂の子(hachinoko: bee larva)" and "いなご(inago: locust)" are very famous. The popular cooking method of them is "tsukudani," simmering and seasoning with soy sauce and sugar to make them salty and sweet, but of course, there are other ways to cook them.
Although many Japanese do know that people eat insects in some places of Japan even though they don't have local insect delicacies around their hometown, why do so many of them have a negative opinion?
It is my guess, but the key may be "whether they have a right to choose." They can completely control their decision whether to eat if the insect food is the local delicacy, regardless of whether they live in the area. However, people may think, "The context can be different" if insect food is globally encouraged to avoid the food crisis. What matters is "whether people who do not want to eat insects can say no." What if cricket powder is added to the food product you usually eat without being informed? What if some insect-based ingredient is used for the menu items of the café you always stop by, your favorite protein drink, or your child's school meal? The less information about insect food is, the more worried people will be.
Why Do Human Beings Hate Insects?
Now, I would like to share an interesting report with you. Its title is "Why do so many modern people hate insects? The urbanization―disgust hypothesis (なぜ現代人には虫嫌いが多いのか? ―進化心理学に基づいた新仮説の提案と検証―)", written by an assistant professor at Tokyo University, Mr. Yuya Fukano (Corresponding Author), and Mr. Masashi Soga.
In this report, they wrote their suggestion and verification of why people hate insects in modern society from the viewpoint of evolutionary psychology. They say one of the routes that lead urbanization to exacerbate the hatred of insects is "Error Management Theory," which explains the possibility that people in urban areas do not have enough knowledge about natural creatures and environments, lacking the ability to tell harmful insects from harmless ones and have hatred of insects they do not need to avoid.
It is such an ironic story if the insects people have instinctively hated to increase the chances of their survival are the key for humans to continue to exist.
Cricket Snacks I Tried Anyway
Although I am writing this article, I have hated bugs and insects since I was little. When my teacher from my elementary school taught me, "Two-thirds of creatures on this planet are insects," I was so shocked and thought, "Oh my goodness! The world is full of insects!"
Despite that I was like that, I took courage and tried to eat "cricket food"!
It is unpredictable how much insect food will become common. We do not know how much people will eat either, even if various insect food products are to be displayed at supermarkets or convenience stores. However, choosing insect food as a topic gave me a chance to know the issue of the reality of the food crisis. That is how I made up my mind to try without missing the chance.
Insect food products I tried this time were snacks such as crackers, cookies, etc., and not the kind of food for decent meals, but I believe they were good choices for a beginner to try because I picked up products that did not include any visible bodies or parts of crickets.
Products I Tried
● "コオロギとおいしい時間。(: Good Time with Crickets.)" Series:
・Twisted Stick (Salt & Pepper)
● 無印良品 コオロギせんべい（: Muji Cricket Cracker）
● 無印良品 コオロギチョコ (: Muji Cricket Chocolate)
● MNH スーパーコオロギおつまみせんべい 七味しょう油 (: MNH Super Cricket Snack Cracker Seasoned with Shichimi and Soy Sauce)
No Weird Smell/Taste/Texture with Sweet Snacks
Florentine (Top), Langue-de-chat (Lower Left), Cricket Chocolate (Lower Right)
These are Florentine and Langue-de-chat of "コオロギとおいしい時間。(: Good Time with Crickets.)" Series, and Muji's chocolate bar. All of them tasted the same as the non-insect products I usually eat and had no weird taste, smell, or texture. The sweet flavor of sugar or chocolate may cover the unique flavor of crickets. (I felt this way, maybe because I did not know the taste of crickets well enough...)
I could not tell whether crickets were in the snacks from the appearance and taste of the products. So it may be good to add them to your options for your tea-time snacks, considering them as "snacks you can take protein." I recommend you share them with someone else or eat in several times because they are a little too much for one person to eat up at once.
Unique Savory Snacks
Twisted Stick (Lower Left), Chips (the Upper Left), Crackers (Upper and Lower Right)
These are salty savory snacks and each one tasted totally different. The ones that didn't have a gap between the appearance and taste were Chips and Twisted Stick of "コオロギとおいしい時間。(: Good Time with Crickets.)" Series. The Chips had a light texture and a good salty taste. Twisted Stick had a pretzel-like texture and was crunchier than Chips with a good kick of salt and pepper, which made me think it would go well with beer. Also, the one that would make a good combination with alcohol was MNH Super Cricket Snack Cracker. Shichimi, a seasoning used for this product, is a mix of spices with a little heat, so this one is moderately striking. Lastly, the one I felt the existence of crickets the most was Muji's Cricket Cracker. Compared to the others, it had a little powdery texture, and the unique flavor I had never tasted came out as I kept chewing. The flavor was new to me and I cannot describe it exactly but could say it was like the aroma of shrimp or umami from kombu.
In conclusion, most insect products I tried were eatable like the other non-insect snacks without feeling weird. I did not expect that because I was so tense, wondering how their taste would be. I will not choose only cricket snacks. However, they can be one of many options.
Probably, many companies will develop products and make a wider variety of tastier insect food items.
There are still many issues to solve to popularize insect food because lots of people have a strong feeling of hesitation to eat insects. Even if insect food can lead to a sustainable food product, not a lot of people in a Japanese society where they have abundant choices for food other than insects would willingly try to incorporate an insect-eating habit into their diet.
Of course, whether people choose to eat insects is up to them. However, would it be the same for the current children and people in future generations? Many of us would not eat insects now, but "Insect Food" may already be helping us as the existence that inspires us to think of the future global food crisis.