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Edible bug industry hopes crickets and kin are the next sushi

May 27, 2016

Just like raw tuna is a favorite of foodies everywhere, Robert Nathan Allen foresees a day when crickets will make their way onto consumers' plates. A growing need for more food sources as well as a desire to treat animals more humanely have proponents predicting entomophagy, or eating insects, will eventually spread more heavily to western and developed countries. They envision pancakes made with cricket flour or falafel chocked full of mealworm goodness will be just as desirable as sushi. "Sushi took 30, 40 years to really become a normal thing, but kale took like five years and kale's not even very tasty," said Allen, head of Austin, Texas-based Little Herds, a nonprofit founded to educate the public on the nutritional and environmental benefits of edible insects.

Allen and about 150 others are gathering at Wayne State University through Saturday to talk about edible bugs and how to grow the nascent industry. The conference is being billed as the first of its kind in the United States. They want to overcome what one speaker called thusene "yuck factor," a feeling shared by many in the United States and other developed countries. Conference organizer Julie Lesnik, an assistant professor of anthropology, said entomophagy was not a fad given the practice's long history, but the industry needs to sell itself better. To that end, one attendee's T-shirt carried this message: "Crickets are the new kale."