Josh Evans, Roberto Flore, Michael Bom Frøst: Farm-To-Table Revolutionaries
Reducing humans' carbon footprint means reimagining our meat proteins – in other words, bugs. For three years, Josh Evans, Roberto Flore and Michael Bom Frøst traveled the world, cataloging the properties of more than 150 edible species for the Nordic Food Lab, a culinary think tank founded by renowned chefs René Redzepi and Claus Meyer. When they started the project, in 2013, interest in edible insects was exploding. News stories declared them "the next food craze" and the "food of the future," trumpeting the fact that crickets and mealworms use significantly less land and water than other farmed proteins and produce far fewer greenhouse gases. When the United Nations released a report on edible insects in May that year, it was downloaded more than a million times in a single day.
Nordic Food Lab found that largely missing in all the hype was a fundamental question: taste. "If you want to convince the world to eat insects, you have to consider it from the perspective of the eater," says Bom Frøst. Many of the foods that were available were freeze-dried or used as a topping. For people to fall in love with a new food group, it wasn't enough to grind up crickets and add peanut butter – they wanted to draw on the culinary traditions that have valued insects for centuries: In Japan, hornets are deep-fried until they puff up and crisp; Kenyans prepare termites by preserving them in honey; in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, tacos can be filled with ant eggs or caterpillars. "In most cases, insects aren't eaten because people are starving," says Evans. "They're eaten because they're a delicacy."
Even as Nordic Food Lab brings attention to new edible species, it hopes to emphasize the risks of scaling production too quickly. "Many of the flaws of raising pork or cows or chicken can easily be repeated with insects," says Bom Frøst. Plus, if Westerners only embrace Big Agriculture insects, he says, we'll miss out on treats like honey ants, whose abdomens swell with the sweet and sour nectars of desert blooms. Or the 40 tons of bee larvae produced as byproduct in Denmark each year, a delicacy the team describes as "something in between bacon and foie gras." Because even if the entire world learns to love eating insects, says Evans, "we have to make sure they don't start to taste like cardboard." GB