There are many reasons to eat edible insects, but here are just a few;
¹ FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations); Oonincx et al., 2010 (Greenhouse gases)
² Mekonnen e Hoekstra (2010): Mekonnen e Hoekstra (2010)
According to the FAO, the world population will reach 9 billion by 2050 and with it meat consumption will double. The meat industry is now one of the main emitters of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, producing as much as 14% of global emissions. The Climate Crisis that is now starting to manifest daily before our eyes, makes the need to find alternative sources of sustainable protein obvious, and urgent! Insects are high in complete protein, 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, which we believe we should start eating now!
It is often expected that they have a strong flavour, in reality they are very delicate and generally reminiscent of nuts, such as hazelnuts.
All insects have their own specific flavour, which will also depend on the preparation.
In any case: crickets, although also delicate, have a distinctive umami taste reminiscent of walnuts; Buffalo Worms – the larvae of a tiny beetle – will remind you of a toasted hazelnut; Locusts a dried porcini and Mealworms popcorn. Give them a try and see for yourself!
Introducing one new food into your diet does not mean depriving yourself of the others, does it?
In fact, if you stop and think about it, there was a time – not too long ago – when even tomatoes, potatoes, cocoa or lobsters, now all mainstays of our diet, were not considered palatable foods, in fact they were despised!
For example, did you know that up until the early 1800s, in the West, lobsters – the rich delicacy that today can cost hundreds of Euros per kg – were used as fertiliser or considered a meal for prisoners and slaves?
Not to mention sushi, just a few years ago was seen as strange, or disgusting…and now? It’s as common as eating pizza!
This is precisely why our mission is to try to open the minds – and bellies – of us Westerners to this superfood which has incredible and unexplored potential. This absolutely does not mean depriving ourselves of other foods that are part of our culinary tradition.
It is true, protein can also be found in vegetables, in fact we also promote and follow a mainly plant based diet.
But we think that in order to meet 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 protein, 9 of which – the essential amino acids – cannot be synthesised by our bodies and must therefore come from the food we eat. Incomplete proteins only have some of the 9 essential amino acids and tend to be of plant origin. This does not mean that having a vegetarian diet is unhealthy, but that one must be careful to correctly combine different protein sources to ensure the right nutritional intake.
The biggest problem with traditional animal proteins, on the other hand, is the environmental impact of livestock farming, as well as the risk of infectious diseases, and the huge ethical questions it raises.
The insect flour we use is guaranteed safe for human consumption meaning that the entire chain – from breeding to processing – is controlled and certified.
First and foremost, the breeding of insects for edible consumption requires, in our case as for all certified ones, that the insects go through various stages to ensure the absence of pathogenic elements in the finished product. In addition, each batch is analysed in the laboratory before being put on the market, all in accordance with food safety standards (HACCP, GMP) for risk prevention.
As of December 2021, the common cricket (Acheta domesticus) has been approved by the European Union for human consumption. Buffalo worms (Alphitobius diaperinus larva), Locusts and mealworms have also been approved. Since this is a European regulation, the provisions are automatically transposed in all member states. And new approvals are on the way!
To compare our Cracker Bites with the classic supermarket wheat flour only crackers is not correct because our Cracker Bites have completely different nutritional properties! For example, they contain almost 25% protein, are a source of complete protein, as well as minerals and vitamins such as B12. Each bag contains an impressive 9 grams of protein, and costs €1.60. This price is perfectly in line with a protein bar, to which our crackers’ nutritional values are comparable.
Our 100% cricket flour has a protein content of 77% (Buffalo Worm’s 57%), so you only need to add a very small amount to significantly increase the protein, vitamin and mineral content of your recipe. So, a pack should last you a while! In short, the price comparison should be made with similar ingredients, such as spirulina, lupin flour, soy protein isolate, etc.
The insects we use for our products are farmed in the Netherlands (Buffalo Worms which have a very limited maturation time and tolerate lower temperatures than crickets) and in Vietnam (crickets).
Crickets are farmed in Vietnam, first of all, because they are part of the local traditional cuisine and therefore there is a lot of expertise when it comes to farming. Second, this means our money is going to support local rural communities and boost economic growth in areas that need it. Third, crickets are cold-blooded animals, meaning they need high temperatures to live (ideally 30°C). The climate of South East Asia is ideal as it’s warm all year round. Life cycle assessment studies that take into account the full process of farming, processing, and transporting products have shown that breeding crickets in Vietnam, where the infrastructure already exists and the temperature is perfect, and then transporting them to Europe, has a lower environmental impact than breeding and processing them directly in Europe. Breeding crickets in Europe is much more energy intensive due to the need to heat the environment for at least 4-6 weeks consecutively for each batch.
If, how, and to what extent insects feel pain is a highly controversial topic, and one which does not yet have a conclusive answer within the scientific community. The confusion begins with the definition of pain; to understand whether insects feel pain, we must first define it. According to the general definition, pain is an experience that includes physical discomfort AND emotional distress. Pain in this sense is therefore different from nociception, which is the ability to respond to damaging stimuli. This ability is present in all organisms. Even bacteria move away from harmful environments. So based on our current understanding of insects’ behaviour, evolution, and particularly their nervous system, the likelihood of insects experiencing pain is low. This is mainly due to the lack of neurological structures necessary for translating negative stimuli – such as injury, into emotional experiences. This has led many experts to conclude that if insects do indeed experience pain in a subjective way, that is likely to be extremely different to our own experience of pain, one lacking key features such as ‘sadness’ and ‘distress’ and states which require the synthesis of emotion, memory and cognition.
Our products are all made of insect flour because we think it is the best way to introduce this superfood to people in the West. By using flour instead of the whole insect, we can relieve some of the fear and disgust people associate with eating insects, and focus instead purely on the taste, which is, even if we do say so ourselves, delicious!
In particular, the first product line we developed are Cracker Bites, mini baked crackers enriched with 15% cricket flour.
Thanks to this addition, they have a protein content of about 25% and are rich in minerals, fibre, and vitamins, such as vitamin B12. Other ingredients, such as extra virgin olive oil and wheat flour, give them a unique crunchiness.
Cracker Bites are available in three flavours: Turmeric and Smoked Paprika, Rosemary and Thyme, and Tomato and Oregano. They are perfect for anyone looking for an innovative, high-protein, nutritious snack without sacrificing sustainability. Our 100% pure insect flours are also part of the Small Giants family. Simply add a small amount to any recipe, to boost it with an extra dose of protein, vitamins, and minerals. In particular, you will find our Buffalo Worm flour 🐛 with a delicate flavour reminiscent of roasted hazelnuts, and of course our 100% Cricket flour, completely gluten-free, with a super high 77% complete protein.
All Small Giants products can be purchased in our online store and are shipped throughout the European Union within 5-6 working days. We are also present in a number of retailers and resellers in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Hungary, and Poland (you can check the highlighted stories “Stores” to see which ones). In Italy, you can buy our products online at VitaminCenter.
Our product packaging is made of plastic but is certified ‘Plastic Neutral’, what does that mean?
Unfortunately we have not yet been able to source a viable, truly sustainable alternative to plastic. We continuously look for alternatives, but while this remains out of our reach for now, we decided to approach the problem from a different angle.
Small Giants is Plastic Neutral certified by rePurpose Global. Our partnership with them finances the collection, treatment and recovery of as much plastic waste from the environment, as we use in our packaging and operations. As a result of this commitment, every Small Giants purchase has a net zero plastic footprint.
To learn more about our partnership with rePurpose Global, go to the link in bio!
Let’s talk about chitin, a fiber found in the exoskeleton of insects. There are false claims on the internet that chitin is harmful to humans, this claim has no basis in available scientific literature.
Chitin is one of the most abundant bio-polymers on earth and is also found in algae, crustaceans, molluscs and fungi. For mammals to digest chitin, they need to have a gene called ‘the CHIA gene’, which allows for enzymes to break it down into digestible molecules. A recent study* found that the gene is present in primates – the mammalian order to which humans belong – It’s therefore likely that we too are able to digest chitin.
However, even if we can’t, this doesn’t mean it’s harmful. Chitin is comparable with cellulose, which makes up the cell walls of many vegetables, such as celery. The human body is unable to digest it, but the insoluble fibres that vegetables contain still contribute to overall health, especially in our digestive tract. A literature review in the journal of functional foods even suggests chitin as a potential food additive stating ‘Chitin contains 90.6 percent of total dietary fiber and it can be defined as a functional food component’.
Finally, eating insects is nothing new, they have been regularly consumed by humans throughout history, and more than 2 billion people regularly consume insects today. The EU also continues to approve new species after intensive reviews, so there is no legitimate cause for concern regarding 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/