A Sustainable Shrimp’s Tail

uncooked shell on shrimp

Thanks to his best friend Bubba, Forrest Gump made his fortune on shrimp. He certainly isn’t the only shrimp fan. Shrimp are a delicious and versatile fish and even more popular than the omega-3 filled salmon and tuna. The average American consumes 92 shrimp per year. Whether you choose shrimp cocktail, grilled shrimp skewers, or even shrimp scampi, shrimp dishes can offer a nutritious, low-calorie protein source that also provides a significant amount of selenium, vitamin B1, and copper.

Where is our shrimp coming from?

Shrimp is farmed, fished, and shipped all over the world. The United States imports close to 90% of all shrimp. A little more than half (roughly 55%) are farmed and the remaining are wild-caught by shrimp trawlers.

Despite its popularity, sustainably grown shrimp that are clean, good for you, and good for the environment are hard to find. Aquaculture is a relatively new and unregulated industry compared to the other of proteins of poultry, beef, and pork. The business of shrimp is challenged because it is fraught with sustainability issues such as environmental, employee welfare, and food safety.

However, the shrimp industry is evolving to establish best farming and fishing practices. The future focus from governments, corporations, shrimp farmers, shrimp feed manufacturers, and consumers is to consider and follow best sustainable practices. Currently, not all farms and not all governments have the same approach to shrimp farming practices – some are better than others.

We have outlined the issues below to help clarify why it is important to choose shrimp that is grown or harvested using best farming practices. This is an instance where the consumer can demand sustainable shrimp by asking where and how the shrimp are caught or farmed. Consumers can also look at the packaging labels to determine if the shrimp is caught or farmed sustainably.

Wild Shrimp

When you see shrimp in the wild many species are quite colorful, with their tentacles waving in the water as they sit on their spindly legs tucked in-between the coral waiting for a tasty morsel to swim by. While wild shrimp swim mostly in warm ocean coastal waters, about 25% can be found in fresh rivers and some are even found in the Arctic Ocean. All shrimp are bottom feeders, living as deep as 16,000 feet. This means they sift through the sand and eat everything from algae, plankton, small fish, and other dead organisms. They are an important part of the aquatic ecosystem.  Shrimp are food for large fish like dolphins, whales, and even other crustaceans, like crabs.

Brown shrimp – the official state crustacean of Alabama and Texas. image

80% of the shrimp harvested in the US comes from the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic region.  The most common varieties are brown, pink and white shrimp. There are more than 1,900 species of shrimp, but less than 20 are important for commercial purposes.

The environmental concerns with wild shrimp revolve around the fishing method. Fishing trawlers use large weighted nets that drag along the ocean floor and collect all the available shrimp. Unfortunately, other species such as red snappers, sea turtles and other juvenile fish are the by-catch without a feasible escape route. Furthermore, dragging weights along the ocean floor is damaging to the coral beds which destroys the habitat for smaller fish.

Most common types of shrimp found in the US. image

Fortunately, in the United States, all shrimp trawlers are required to have holes in their nets, which let the other sea life out of the net before it is brought to the surface. In parts of the Gulf, the trawlers consider the coral beds and only catch shrimp on a sandy sea floor, thus not disturbing other sea animals or their habitat. Unfortunately, shrimp trawling in other parts of the world are not as regulated.

Farmed Shrimp

In 2015, the estimated production of farmed shrimp was about two million tons. The majority of shrimp farms are located in China (41%), Indonesia (13%), Vietnam and India (8%).  USDA data shows that the United States imports most of our shrimp from India (23%), Indonesia (17%), Thailand (16%), Ecuador (14%), and Vietnam (10%).

Some farmed shrimp stationed along the coastal waters can cause environmental damage. The “farm” in this case is really just a pond of up to about 250 acres which is cut into the mangrove forests. These forests are a predominant ecological system that supports the diverse coastal sea life and act as a buffer for the land against storms.

Shrimp farming practices can result in dirty water due to fish waste, overfeeding, antibiotics, chemical disinfectants, and overcrowding. Once the harvest occurs, all that dirty water goes right into the ocean and is harmful to marine life such as manatees, lobsters, and every other living thing that swims or lives nearby.

Fish farm impacting mangroves in Belize. image: http://ocean.si.edu/mangroves

In order to maximize shrimp output, farmers overstock their ponds and can overfeed their shrimp-stock. There can be as many as 150 shrimp in the space of an average size TV rather than the recommended 60-80 shrimp in a cubic yard. Another consequence of the dirty water is that the fresh groundwater can be polluted unless the ponds are lined with heavy duty plastics. The salt water in the ponds can leach into the fresh groundwater, hurting the communities who live in the area.

Overcrowding makes the shrimp very vulnerable to deadly shrimp diseases such as the white spot syndrome virus and early mortality syndrome. In 2012 and 2013, early mortality syndrome affected shrimp production in China, Thailand, and Malaysia. Antibiotics are heavily used to help keep the shrimp healthy. The FDA recognizes this dependence on antibiotics and has turned away 30% more shrimp from India due to illegal antibiotic residues.

What happens once the shrimp are harvested?

Once these farmed shrimp are harvested, they are transferred to a processing plant where they are either cleaned, beheaded, breaded, canned, shelled, and/or packaged. Each processing plant has their specialty, and of course, some processing facilities are cleaner and better than others. If gloves are not worn or proper precautions are not taken, shrimp can carry diseases such as staph infections and food poisoning.

Finally, some facilities in Asia, Thailand specifically, have been targeted with adult and child slave labor to peel the shrimp. They are known for forcing employees to stand for 16 hours without much of a break and with little opportunity to escape. Not only is this illegal and incredibly dangerous for the employee, but it also compromises the food safety of the shrimp that is being packaged.

The shrimp industry is changing for the better

The majority of shrimp farming is loosely regulated and this just may dissuade you from ever cooking coconut sautéed shrimp forever. But that does not mean that ALL shrimp are poorly managed. In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund, the FAO, the Network of Aquaculture Centre’s in Asia-Pacific, the World Bank, and the United Nations Environmental Program all recognized that shrimp farming needed stronger guidelines. These organizations established a set of eight principles that are recommended and encouraged for shrimp farmers around the world.  These standards take environmental sustainability, food safety, feed management, and social responsibility into consideration.

Ecuador, Belize, United States, and South American countries have also recognized that consumers and buyers alike are searching for more transparency in their food supply. They are regulating food safety, employee welfare, and environmental standards on their farms as well as incorporating modern technology in their farming practices. The World Wildlife Fund also works closely with shrimp farmers in Thailand to eliminate mangrove destruction, pollution, and illegal fishing and labor practices.

Innovation is also taking hold in the United States. Shrimp farmers in states like Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa have taken the food safety and environmental standards to heart. They own huge closed recirculating aquaculture systems contained indoor tanks which can manage the environmental issues, control the water temperature and quality, and have no interaction with the wild species. This undertaking is not for the faint of heart. The start-up costs are large and the heating bills are high. There is even a risk of losing an entire tank if the farmer doesn’t get the water salinity correct. But the payoffs are big as shrimp can be easier and cheaper to feed than cattle, pigs, or chickens. Finally, the demand for sustainable shrimp is high.

Providing healthy shrimp food is an integral component for a healthy harvest. Some shrimp farmers skimp on the quality of the product. Those that use best practices feed their shrimp fishmeal, cereal grains, and soybean meal. At this stage, astute farmers will introduce probiotics.  While they are not a silver bullet, probiotics in combination with multiple strategies can keep shrimp healthy as well.

How do you know what shrimp to buy?

Third-party certifications below can help you quickly discern which shrimp follow sustainable standards.  You can also check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch for information on specific species.

Marine Stewardship Council

Aquaculture Stewardship Council


Whole Foods Responsibly Farmed

Marine Stewardship Council: Indicates that wild shrimp are caught using sustainable fishing practices. That can include outfitting nets with devices that allow other animals to escape.

Aquaculture Stewardship Council: Indicates shrimp are raised without antibiotics and according to guidelines that protect the environment. This label also ensures that shrimp farms do not use forced labor. However, the guidelines permit the use of certain chemicals, including some pesticides, and don’t limit the number of shrimp in the pond.

Naturland:  These are Monterey Bay Aquarium standards for Organic Shrimp. Indicates that shrimp are farmed following guidelines that prohibit over-stocking of shrimp ponds and the use of chemicals, including antibiotics, pesticides, and disinfectants. Shrimp are fed food made of sustainably caught fish meal, and farms do not use forced labor.

Whole Foods Market Responsibly Farmed: Certifies that shrimp are raised in conditions that protect the environment, without antibiotics, and with limited use of chemicals. But there’s no limit on the density of shrimp in ponds. This label is found only at Whole Foods Market stores.

Does Activated Charcoal Detoxify?

glass with charcoal drink, mint and pineapple

Let’s be honest with ourselves, if a product states “cleansing properties” or “eliminates toxins”, our interests are perked. There are numerous “quick fixes” targeting hopeful dieters, and we all have fallen victim to these marketing ploys at one time or another. Whether they are packaged as juices, supplements, or food, “quick fixes” are never going to fix a problem created by an unhealthy lifestyle.

Activated charcoal is believed detoxify our bodies from impurities and toxins we come into contact with on a daily basis. But, do we even truly understand what a toxin is? These days, terms like “toxins” are thrown around so frequently that they often lose their meaning. We know that toxins are harmful and can enter your body through many different channels. But what else should we know?

Toxins are everywhere and can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed. Certain behaviors like overeating, indulging in processed foods, lack of exercise, poor diet, and excess alcohol prevent your body from working efficiently to remove toxins.

Of course, we are realists and it can be hard to avoid temptation! Because of this, Americans often rely on crash diets to solve bad long term habits. This is where we often go wrong! Juice cleanses, for example, have taken on a life of their own. The cold-pressed juice industry is currently estimated at $100 million! But, as we have reviewed on D2D, your body already has the tools to naturally detoxify.

Activated charcoal is one of the newest quick fixes that claims to target the toxins in your body. Why activated charcoal, you ask? We were wondering the same thing.

Activated charcoal is created for medicinal purposes through a controlled heating process. Performed in a lab, heat, and gas are applied to charcoal to make it increasingly porous. These pores are what allow the charcoal to capture hazardous substances when administered by a medical professional to remove poison, chemicals, or drug overdoses from your body. Typically, when activated charcoal is administered in the hospital, the objective is to get the patient in question to vomit so the charcoal absorbs the chemical with its millions of tiny pores.

However, the idea of using charcoal as a healthy drink to target toxins is not very feasible. Yes, activated charcoal is able to trap substances, but there is no way for the charcoal molecules to differentiate between beneficial substances inside your body and harmful ones! Therefore, when you consume activated charcoal you risk eliminating essential minerals and vitamins from your body.

While activated charcoal is believed to help your skin health, digestive system, and alleviate gas and bloating, the science behind the activated charcoal does not exist.

In an interview with Time MagazineDr. Kent Olson, medical director of the San Francisco Poison Control System and clinical professor of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco discussed the medicinal uses of activated charcoal. “‘The problem with charcoal is that it’s non-specific. It’ll bind to anything…that could include toxins as well as nutrients. Remember that might include vitamins and amino acids and other things you actually need in your diet.’” (Dr. Kent Olson for Time Magazine, 2016)

image source:www.intothegloss.com

Recently, companies like GoopJuice Generation, and Shape Magazine have touted the benefits of activated charcoal. In fact, Juice Generation has even created a new line of activated charcoal juice products that are said to target the toxins in your body. These juices are now the company’s best selling products. According to the label, they are able to take a traditional green juice to the next level. And while the products certainly will not hurt you, they do highlight a common disconnect between seller and consumer.

Unfortunately, these labels do not mention the large lack of research behind this detoxifying phenomenon. In the past 30 years, 159 human studies have been performed pertaining to activated charcoal, almost all of which were for medicinal application. In a 2015 meta-analysis of these studies, Dr. Thomas Pirelli Ph.D., of Harvard University, examines the results of research pertaining to the use of activated charcoal. There were only two reported human studies pertaining to the claim that activated charcoal helps intestinal gas. One study stated that the activated charcoal did improve gas and bloating while the other did not. 

Most simply put, extensive research just doesn’t exist. Not to mention, our understanding of activated charcoal’s composition suggests the substance can eliminate equal parts of nutrients to toxins. So, while there may be a teeny tiny chance that activated charcoal might help a severe hangover or temporarily reduce internal gas, it is not something you need to incorporate into your everyday routine.


tractor, american flag, sunflowers

Most of us will never pull a carrot from the ground, milk a cow, slaughter a pig or gather eggs from our own hens. Those days of rugged self-sufficiency are gone and aren’t likely to return. Yet people are increasingly aware that their hyper accelerated, super improved lives are missing something. They are rethinking not only what they eat, but where it comes from. This crusade has a name: The Local Food Movement.

Douglas Gayeton, Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America.

It is high summer in the U.S. and if you are not enjoying freshly picked fruits and vegetables then it is time that you visit your nearest farmers market for some locally grown food!  We feel better when we buy peaches from a local farmer’s market versus a cold air-conditioned grocery store.

What is “local” food?

Well, it often isn’t as local as you are probably thinking!  “Local” should imply a close geographic relationship between you and where your food was grown—but, there are no third-party certifications, set production standards or required growing practices under federal programs that support local or regional foods. “Local food” does not provide any indication of food qualities such as freshness or nutritional value, and the term cannot be used as a reliable indicator that that food was grown organically or sustainably.

Ultimately, what defines local depends on the level of access to food, the geography, and the lens of the consumer.

There are a few states, such Vermont and Connecticut, that have established rules to define local as within the borders of the state, but with no consistency in definition throughout the United States, the door is open for unscrupulous sellers! A perfect example might be a Massachusetts grocer selling “local” tomatoes for the 4th of July. Hmmm…the tomato harvest in New England generally starts at the end of July. That tomato was probably grown in New Jersey or Maryland and trucked to supermarkets in the north. Is that local? You see where the confusion lies. As the local food market continues to expand, there’s growing concern that the term “local” could become another confusing label such as “natural“, organic,” “grass-fed” and “antibiotic free.”

Generally, according to Mintel Research, consumers trust that local food is grown within a 100-mile radius or in-State. The most widely recognized definition comes from the 2008 Farm Bill, which states the total distance for a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product” as less than 400 miles from its origin or within the State in which it is produced. To put this into perspective, this distance could be an entire day’s drive OR it could be like driving from Cleveland, Ohio to Washington D.C.!

Farms with local food sales represent 7.8 percent of U.S. farms, and while local food sales account for a small percentage (1.5%) of the total value of U.S. agricultural production, it is a growing and differentiated market for producers.

According to industry estimates, the market for local and regional foods was valued at $12 billion in 2014 and is projected to hit $20 billion by 2019.

Local foods are one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture.

  • As of 2014, there were 8,268 farmers’ markets in the United States, up 180 percent since 2007. 
  • The number of regional food hubs has increased almost threefold since 2007, to a total of 302 in 2014. 
  • Farm to school programs has shown a 430-percent increase since 2007.

What comprises a Local or Regional Food System?

source: USDA

  1. The Direct to Consumer Market – Farmers sell their products directly to consumers, rather than through third parties, such as grocery stores. These type of operations include Farmer’s markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and other outlets such as pick your own or roadside farms stands.
  2. The Direct to Retail, Foodservice, and Institution Market –  Farmers will deliver farm products directly to institutions such as grocers, restaurants, schools or hospitals or they may rely on a “food hub,” which is a centralized location to drop off-farm products for distribution amongst multiple establishments.

Does “local” cost more?

Consumers may perceive that it costs more to buy from a farmers market, but research shows that in general, the cost of buying locally grown and/or locally grown certified organic products is competitive with regular supermarket prices. Prices do vary according to commodity, region, and the outlet; and factors such as drought or cold snaps are price influencers as well, but don’t be afraid to spend your money at the local farmers market!!

Source: Vermont Agency of Agriculture

Is “Local” More Nutritious?

There is not a simple answer! It depends on the crop variety, how it is grown, harvested, packaged, and stored. No matter if it is grown 700 or 7 miles away, by the time the fruit or vegetable reaches your plate, many decisions along the production chain have influenced the nutritional quality. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health examined and summarized the influences of this important nutritional question…

Variety: Commercial growers are limited in crop varieties because of yield, shipping durability, and shelf life requirements. Although this is why vegetables and produce are available on our supermarket shelves at any time of the year, these crops are not necessarily bred for flavor and nutrition. Farmers growing for a local market, however, can grow many different varieties of a crop, offering numerous options for consumers, and harvesting crops at peak ripeness optimize the flavor, juiciness, and nutritional value.

Growing Methods: No matter the size of the farm, how a farmer tends to the soil and manages pests is critical. Organic matter, cover crops, letting fields go fallow to let the soil regenerate, and the practice of integrated pest management are some of the methods used by farmers to maintain healthy soil and crops.

Post Harvest Handling: Fresh vegetables are extremely perishable and how they are picked and handled after harvest will affect plant integrity, quality, and nutritional value. It makes little difference what the quality is at harvest if it is reduced by poor handling, packaging, processing or storage conditions. Minimally processed foods such as pre-cut veggies are incredibly convenient, but the cutting, slicing, chopping, and peeling causes injuries to the plant tissues, increasing susceptibility to spoilage and microbial intruders, which can compromise food safety. Studies have shown that nutritional quality is affected as little as three days after harvest. The best nutritional value is attained by picking and eating within a day or two.

Knowing the seasonality of fruits and vegetables in your region goes a long way at the Farmers Market or your local grocers and restaurants!

Try these interactive guides to buying seasonal produce from Sustainable Table and the National Resources Defense Council

Storage: Fruits and vegetables continue respiration and enzymatic activity post-harvest. Temperature, atmosphere, relative humidity, and sanitation are all important to maintain shelf life. How you store your fruits and vegetables at home is important, too. The scientists at UC Davis have put together an excellent guide for home storage of fruits and vegetables.

Is Local Food Greener?

“Food Miles” refers not to how far you travel to get your food, but instead how far the food travels to get to you. Multiple studies (Avetisyan et al., 2013; Weber and Matthews, 2008) have found that there are many more variables involved in determining greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) than just how far the food is transported from harvest to plate. Research shows that 83% of the GHG emissions associated with food are dominated by how that food was produced. Large farms growing crops suited to their region may use less energy per product and grow more food on less land realizing economies of scale in production and transportation methods. Strategies such as no-till, more efficient irrigation, integrated pest management, judicious fertilizer use, better handling of manure, and leaving fields fallow help offset the greenhouse gas of farms large and small.

The larger discussion now, driven by consumers demanding full transparency, is about sustainability, which concerns the environment, public health, labor workers, and animal welfare. How was the product grown? Were the animals treated humanely? How were the farm workers treated?

A farmer who understands that his customers want full transparency is more likely to adopt sustainable measures of agriculture to sell his product. The relationship and trust between your farmer and your food become far more important than how many miles it took to travel to you.


Local food is not a trend.  It’s not a fad hooked to a priority that will fade away.  It’s a vital part of our nation’s diverse food system, born out of consumer demand and driven by the universal connection we have to our community and the farmers and businesses owners who produce the food we eat. Source: USDA

Insects: A New Protein Source

Fried Grasshoppers

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “insects supplement the diets of approximately 2 billion people.” Moreover, roughly 80% of the world’s population incorporates insects into their diet in some capacity. In the media, using insects as a source of protein has also been dubbed as the future of food. This is partly because the world’s population is estimated to reach nine billion the year 2050! And while we may not be ready to see insect delicacies featured on our local restaurant menu, we need to ask ourselves— how are farmers and food processing companies supposed to feed all these people healthy food?

Companies like ExoChapul, and Entomo Farms are helping the U.S., Canada, and Europe successfully incorporate insects into their diet without the ‘ick factor.’ Through insect-based protein powders and bars, these companies are helping redefine what it means to eat bugs. Even General Mills is hopping on the bandwagon and investigating new ways to “use crickets as a sustainable source of protein.”

“If a family of 4 ate just 1 meal a week using insect protein for a year they would save the Earth 650,000 liters of water.”
(Entomo Farms )
That equates to 2,749,500 8oz glasses of water per year!

Preserving our farmland and water resources is extremely important if we hope to feed future generations. Insect protein is one of the most sustainable ways to provide nutrient-dense food to a growing population— without using excess water, land, feed, or energy. Today, one in nine people do not have enough food to lead a nutritionally healthy life. Raising and harvesting insects for food is a step in the right direction in the fight against world hunger.  Surprisingly, however, sustainability is actually just a bonus of insect farming. The real benefit of insect farming is the healthy, lean protein they provide.

How are insects farmed?

Farmed insects are not caught in the wild, captured, cooked, and served. Like many farm-raised animals, insects are bred and harvested. Insects can be wild-harvested (which is often seen throughout many parts of Southeast Asia) but, wild-harvesting can actually compromise your health. The wild-harvest process is not regulated, thus it can lead to health uncertainties, specifically because wild-harvested insects are not typically intended for human consumption. If you choose to consume insects, experts recommend sticking with products that have been farmed. In order to better understand the insect farming process, we spoke with Entomo Farms co-founder Dr. Jarrod Goldin who explained the Entomo approach.

Their primary concern is creating safe and clean insects. For their cricket products, Entomo Farms uses retrofitted chicken farms in order to properly cultivate their insects. Aptly nicknamed condo’s, the retrofit farms are divided into six habitats that maximize surface area for the crickets. The insects’ food is kept at the top of the condo and within it is a trough of running water. While some companies choose to use water bowls, Entomo believes stagnant water is inevitably not as clean as running water. The crickets are fed organic grain and are harvested at six weeks. In order to harvest the cricket for human consumption, the insects are immediately flash frozen with the use of dry ice. Because crickets are cold-blooded animals this process is also extremely humane. After they are frozen, the crickets are transported to the processing facility where they are washed thoroughly before being roasted.

Cricket Colony – barns and housing – Entomo Farms

Entomo Farms sent their crickets to be tested by a Government Certified Lab in order to determine the number of bacteria that were present in their cricket product. An Aerobic Plate Count (APC), is used as an indicator of bacterial populations on a sample. According to the FDA, a suitable range for frozen, chilled, precooked, or prepared food is 25-250 colonies per plate. The reported aerobic plate count for Entomo Farms Cricket Powder was roughly 10 colonies per plate. So, next time you are looking for a minimally-processed protein source, you might want to keep Entomo’s insect products in mind!

Health and nutrition profile of insects

Forbes Magazine dubbed insects “the next new miracle superfood” because of their dense protein content. Some insect species weigh in at roughly 80% protein, with a majority of species weighing in above the 50% protein by weight marker. Additionally, some insect species, like crickets, contain all nine essential amino acids. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), crickets are also very high in micronutrients, such as magnesium, iron, and zinc. Insect species are also known to be high in calcium, vitamins B12 and A, and are reported to have a nearly perfect ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

Source: Precision Nutrition

When you eat insects, you’re not just eating muscle, you’re also eating bones and organs, which deliver calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and zinc. It’s like if somebody ground up a whole cow and ate it!” (Daniella Martin, author of Edible)

The nutritional profile above demonstrates how 100g of cricket protein measures up to a traditional meal of steak and broccoli. It is important to note, however, that a typical serving size of cricket powder is roughly 2 tablespoons (17 grams). Therefore, it would take approximately 5 servings of cricket powder to equal a 100 gram (3.5 oz) serving of steak.

For more information on the nutritional value of insects with regards to human consumption, we recommend the following chapter from the FAO Forestry Paper, “Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security” 

According to Dr. Goldin, an additional benefit of insect nutrition is the gut microbiota. As you may recall, D2D recently reviewed the importance of gut health and its effect on your brain in our article, “Your Second Brain: Gut Microbiota.” Probiotics help facilitate the growth of native gut microbes, but in order for probiotics to be successful at their job, they need fuel— this is where prebiotics come into the picture. Prebiotics feed probiotics and insects are considered rich prebiotics because of the fiber in their exoskeleton.

It is also important to note that insects can share common food allergens with crustacean, as both species are classified as an arthropod. Unfortunately, there is very little research pertaining to insect-related food allergens as the industry is just starting to expand. Because of this, the European Food Safety Agency warns anyone allergic to shellfish or mites to avoid eating insects.

Food Safety and Regulation

In the United States, insect farming is still in its infancy stages. In fact, 2016 marked the first year a conference was held completely dedicated to edible insects. The North American Edible Insects Coalition met in Detroit in May 2016 to discuss the future of harvesting insects for food.

One major effort that is being hedged by the coalition is increased federal regulation as “best practices” within the edible insect space are still being established by the FDA. Lobbyists for edible insects have launched a campaign to urge the FDA to “add mealworms, crickets protein powder, and other insect products to the agency’s database of Generally Recognized as Safe ingredients (GRAS)” (Bloomberg News).

In order for the insect-for-food industry to become more socially accepted, there needs to be an appropriate level of regulation for these products. Although insect products made by companies like Exo, Chapul, and Entomo Farms are considered food in the eyes of the FDA, they are not clearly regulated. One way to start successfully integrating insects into a traditional Western diet would be for the FDA to deem edible insects as GRAS.

As it stands now, the FDA allows the sale of bugs if they are raised for human consumption. Insect parts or additives can be found at specialty shops but technically aren’t classified as food-safe ingredients because of their exclusion from the GRAS list. (Bloomberg News)

And while we certainly do not suggest or expect you to replace all of your chicken or beef meals with insect protein— we recommend giving edible insects a chance!

You can add the ultra-fine cricket powder to just about anything. Sprinkle it on top of your oatmeal, add it to a peanut butter sandwich, even mix it in with the stir-fry you are cooking. The powder can help make healthy or marginally healthy food even healthier without much effort.

Cricket flour cookies. image: pixabay

We see a day where people have sugar, salt, pepper, and cricket powder on their countertop…and you add it throughout your cooking, as you would those condiments. It would be a great step for their health and wellness and for sustainability.
– Entomo Farms