FREQUENT QUESTIONS

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WHY EAT EDIBLE INSECTS?

The reasons are truly many, edible insects are in fact:

  • Highly protein-rich: in the case of crickets for example the percentage of complete proteins reaches up to 77%, i.e. 2 or 3 times higher – for the same weight – than that of red meat.
  • Rich in micronutrients: such as minerals and vitamins including vitamin B12 – essential for an immune system and a healthy brain.
  • At the same time they have a very low environmental impact: raising crickets, for example, leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equal to 99% when compared to cattle farming¹.

Not only that, insects are also very skilled at transforming plant waste into high-quality nutrients. The same goes for food and natural resources, just think that to produce one kg of beef you need 15,000 liters of water and 200m² of land; 10 liters of water and 15m² of land are enough for one kg of crickets.

¹ FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations); Oonincx et al., 2010 (Greenhouse gases)

² Mekonnen and Hoekstra (2010): Mekonnen and Hoekstra (2010)

IS EATING INSECTS REALLY SUSTAINABLE?

According to the FAO, the world population will reach 9 billion by 2050 and with it meat consumption will double.

The meat industry is today one of the main causes of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, producing as much as 14%¹ of global emissions.

The Climate Crisis, which manifests itself before our eyes on a daily basis, makes clear the need to find alternative sources of sustainable proteins. We need it now!

Insects are very high in complete proteins, as well as vitamins and minerals, but require drastically less land, water, feed and energy than traditional protein sources.

Edible insects are the food of the future but in our opinion we should start tasting them today!

¹ FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)

WHAT DO INSECTS TASTE?

You might expect us to have a strong flavour, in reality insects are very delicate and generally resemble dried fruit, such as hazelnuts.

All insects have their own specific flavour, which will also depend on the preparation.

In any case:

  • the crickets, although delicate, have a characteristic umami flavor reminiscent of nuts;
  • the Buffalo Worms - the larvae of a small beetle - they will remind you of a toasted hazelnut;
  • the locusts a dried porcini mushroom
  • the mealworms the popcorn! Seeing is believing!

DOES EATING INSECTS MEAN GIVING UP OUR CUISINE?

Introducing a new food into your diet doesn't mean depriving yourself of others, don't you think?

In fact, if you stop to think, once upon a time - not too distant - even tomatoes, potatoes, cocoa, or lobsters, all pillars of our diet today, were not considered appetizing foods, indeed they were despised!

For example, did you know that only until the beginning of the 19th century , in the West, were lobsters – the rich delicacy that today can cost hundreds of Euros per kg – used as fertilizers or considered meals for prisoners and slaves?

Not to mention sushi, I'll tell you remember what it was like just a few years ago? And now? It's as common as eating pizza!

It is precisely for this reason that our mission is to try to open the minds - and bellies - of us Westerners to this superfood with incredible but still unexplored potential, without depriving ourselves of other foods that are part of the our culinary tradition.

WHY NOT LIMIT YOURSELF ONLY TO VEGETABLES?

It's true, proteins are also found in vegetables, in fact we too promote and follow a predominantly plant-based diet.

But we believe that to face the complex challenges of the climate crisis it is important to consider multiple solutions simultaneously.

The great advantage of edible insects is that they provide complete proteins, i.e. they contain all 9 essential amino acids.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, 9 of which - the essential amino acids - cannot be synthesized by our body and must therefore come from the food we eat. Incomplete proteins contain only some of the 9 essential amino acids and tend to be plant-based. This does not mean that a vegetarian diet is unhealthy, but that care must be taken to correctly combine the different protein sources to guarantee the right nutritional intake.

The main problem of traditional animal proteins, however, is the impact environmental conditions of livestock farming, the risk of infectious diseases and the enormous ethical questions they raise.

IS IT SAFE TO EAT INSECTS?

The insect flour we use is guaranteed for human consumption and therefore the entire supply chain - from breeding to processing - is controlled and certified.

In particular, the breeding of insects for edible consumption requires, in our case as for all certified ones, that the insects go through various phases which ensure the absence of pathogenic elements in the finished product, furthermore, every lot is analyzed in the laboratory before being put on the market, all following food safety standards (HACCP, GMP and BRC) for risk prevention.

ARE EDIBLE INSECTS LEGAL?

As of December 2021, the house cricket (Acheta Domesticus) has been approved by the European Union for human consumption.

Alphitobius diaperinus larvae have also been approved or Buffalo Worm, locusts and mealworms. Since it is a European regulation, the provisions are automatically implemented in all member states.

And new approvals are about to arrive!

THE PRICE SEEMS TOO HIGH, WHY?

It is important to understand with which products the comparison is being made.

For example, comparing our Mini Crackers to the classic wheat flour-only crackers from the supermarket is not correct, because our Mini Crackers have nutritional properties completely different! In fact, crickets contain more complete proteins and vitamin B12 than beef, more calcium than milk and more omega 3 than salmon, all with an extremely reduced environmental impact. Each 80 g packet contains 19 grams of protein, and costs €2.15. This is a price perfectly in line, if not lower, than a classic protein bar, compared to which the nutritional values ​​of our crackers have nothing to envy.

Our 100% flour Crickets, then, have a protein content equal to 77% (that of Buffalo Worm 57%) of its weight, so just add a very small quantity to significantly increase the protein, vitamin and mineral content of the recipe is preparing, thus guaranteeing a high shelf life of the product.

In short, the comparison on price should be made with similar ingredients, such as spirulina, lupine flour, soy isolate, etc. .

WHERE DO YOU BREED YOUR INSECTS?

The insects we use for our flours are bred partly in Holland (the Buffalo Worms, which have a very limited maturation time and tolerate lower temperatures than crickets) and partly in Vietnam (crickets).

The latter are bred in Vietnam for various reasons, first of all because they are part of the traditional local cuisine and therefore there is great expertise in terms of breeding. Secondly, this means that our money will go to support local rural communities and stimulate economic growth in areas that need it.

Also crickets are cold-blooded animals i.e. they need high temperatures to live (ideally 30°C). The climate of South East Asia, warm all year round, provides ideal conditions. Raising crickets here - and then transporting them to Europe - therefore has a lower environmental impact than raising them directly in Europe, since in this case it would be necessary to heat the environment where they live for at least 4-6 consecutive weeks for each batch, with a much greater energy expenditure.

DO INSECTS FEEL PAIN?

It should be specified that this is a controversial topic on which there is not yet unanimous consensus among the scientific community. In fact, to understand if insects feel pain it is first necessary to agree on what is meant by pain.

According to the general definition, pain is an experience that includes negative emotions. Pain in this sense is therefore different from the mechanism known as "nociception", which is the ability to respond to harmful stimuli, with which all organisms are equipped, even bacteria, capable of moving away from harmful environments, such as a high pH .

Nociception is, therefore, a simple reflex response, limited to the sensorial perception of the noxious stimulus, while pain goes further, because it is also a conscious emotional experience.

Based on our current understanding of the nervous system of insects, which appear to lack the neurological structures responsible for translating negative stimuli – such as injuries – into emotional experiences, the likelihood that they will experience pain is low.

On our farms, in particular, procedures are activated to guarantee optimal conditions for insects, both during and in the final phase of breeding. In the latter it is enough to slightly lower the temperature to put them to sleep (they enter a sort of hibernation called diapause) and they are then killed by further lowering the degrees. In this process there is a gradual slowdown.

For this reason we believe that anyone who wants to stay healthy while avoiding the inhumane treatment of animals should also consider insects as a new food source.

WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS OF YOUR PRODUCTS?

Our products are all based on insect flour because we believe it is the best way to introduce this superfood to people in the West.

By using flour instead of the whole insect, we can alleviate some of the fear and disgust that people associate with eating insects and instead focus exclusively on the taste, which is delicious!

In particular, the first line of products we developed are Mini Crackers, baked and enriched with 15% cricket flour.

Thanks to this addition, have a protein content of approximately 25% and are rich in minerals, fiber and vitamins, such as vitamin B12. The other ingredients, such as extra virgin olive oil and wheat flour, give them a unique crunchiness.

The Mini Crackers are available in three variants: Turmeric & Smoked Paprika, Rosemary & Thyme, Tomato & Oregano. They are perfect for those looking for a high-protein and nutritious snack without sacrificing sustainability.

Our 100% insect-based flours also belong to the Small Giants family, simply add a small quantity to any recipe, even raw, to make it truly innovative and enhance it with an extra dose of proteins, vitamins and minerals. In particular you will find our Buffalo Worm flour with a delicate flavor reminiscent of toasted hazelnuts, and obviously cricket flour, completely gluten free, with 77% complete proteins.

WHERE CAN I BUY YOUR PRODUCTS?

All Small Giants products can be purchased on our online store and are shipped throughout the European Union.

Shipping usually takes 48 hours for Italy, and 2-3 working days for rest of the EU.

We are also present in various shops and retailers both in Italy and abroad in countries such as Germany, Spain, France, Hungary, Poland (you can find them all in our featured stories on Instagram) .

YOUR PACKAGING IS PLASTIC NEUTRAL, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

The packaging of our products is made of plastic but all certified Plastic Neutral, what does this mean?

A compostable alternative capable of managing our products is difficult to find and even when possible, it appears that for us, as a small start up, it is still too complicated. Therefore, as we are not yet able to change the way we package our products, we have decided to tackle the problem from another angle.

Small Giants is in fact certified Plastic Neutral by rePurpose Global with which we have entered into a partnership to finance the collection, treatment and recovery of as much nature-related plastic waste as we use in our packaging and operations. Thanks to this courageous commitment, every Small Giants purchase therefore has a net zero plastic footprint!

To learn about our partnership with rePurpose Global, visit the page dedicated to us on their website!

IS IT TRUE THAT WE DO NOT DIGEST THE CHITIN CONTAINED IN INSECTS?

We are talking about chitin, a fiber present in the exoskeleton of insects. On the internet there are false claims according to which chitin is harmful to humans, claims which have no basis in the available scientific literature.

Chitin is one of the most abundant biopolymers in nature and is also found in algae, crustaceans, molluscs and fungi. To digest chitin, mammals must possess a gene called the "CHIA gene," which allows enzymes to break it down into digestible molecules.

A recent study* found that the gene is present in primates, the order of mammals to which humans belong, and it is therefore probable that we too are able to digest chitin.

However, even if we cannot, this does not mean that it is harmful . Chitin is comparable to cellulose, which makes up the cell walls of many vegetables, such as celery. The human body is not able to digest it, but the insoluble fibers contained in vegetables still contribute to general health, especially of our digestive system.

A review of the literature published in the journal "Journal of functional foods" even suggests chitin as a potential food additive, stating that “chitin contains 90.6% of total dietary fiber and can be defined as a functional food component.”

Finally, eating insects is nothing new! Insects have been regularly consumed by humans throughout history and today more than 2 billion people consume them regularly.

Furthermore, the EU continues to approve new species of insects for human consumption after intensive testing and evaluation.

So there is no cause for concern about chitin.

*Evolution of Acidic Mammalian Chitinase Genes (CHIA) Is Related to Body Mass and Insectivory in Primates

Mareike C Janiak 1 2 3, Morgan E Chaney 4 5, Anthony J Tosi 4 5 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29216399/