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Little Herds Celebrates Eating Insects and a Sustainable Future of Food at the 9th Annual Bug Eating Festival Part II on Wednesday, July 13th
For the second year in a row, in.gredients is hosting the Bug (Eating) Festival – a celebration of entomophagy and the future of food organized by Little Herds, an Austin non-profit working to promote the use of insects for food and feed as an environmentally sound and economically viable source of nutrition.
A large crowd of local bug-enthusiasts gathered at in.gredients for Part I of the 9th Annual Bug (Eating) Festival on Saturday, June 4 to sample insect-infused treats, listen to live music by Josh Buckley and learn more about the role of bugs in our food system.
“It went great; we probably had 200 people there,” Little Herds President Robert Nathan Allen said. “We had booths for PEAS, Delysia Chocolatier, Slow Food Austin, Aketta, and Crickers Crackers. There was a kids’ activities table and a bunch of different treats like cricket rice krispie treats and cricket oatmeal cookies. Chef Rick Lopez from La Condesa did a cooking demonstration of how to make chapulines salsa.”
Due to the severe weather conditions during Part I of the 9th Annual Bug Eating Festival, Little Herds is holding a second Bug Eating Festival this year on Wednesday, July 13 from 5-9PM at in.gredients. The 9th Annual Bug Eating Festival Part II is an opportunity for insect-novices to taste bugs for the first time and for entomophagy enthusiasts like RNA to gather and share what they love about insects as a food of the future.
RNA’s initial interest in insect eating was sparked by a video on entomophagy that was sent to him as a joke, “I took it way too seriously,” he said. A year later RNA had gathered together a group of friends who were interested in eating bugs and raising awareness of the environmental and nutritional benefits of insects as an alternative protein source. Within six months, by December 2013, Little Herds had become a 501c3 non-profit committed to edible insect education.
“We should be thinking about our food before it hits our plate,” RNA said. “Little Herds’ mission is to educate our community about the benefits of eating insects – it addresses the broader questions of how we fix our broken food system. We are interested in insects as food and as livestock feed, and we are focused on our local community and global community. Austin was the perfect birthplace for Little Herds; there are a lot of cultural influences on our food scene. Austin already has a big paleo community, a big gluten-free community – there are a lot of people who want to keep it weird when it comes to what we eat here.”
Raising insects requires significantly less resources – water, space and feed – than the production of other forms of livestock. When RNA learned of the environmental sustainability and nutrient content of edible insects, he began experimenting with cricket flour. He brought one of his first batches of cricket cookies to the 5th Annual Bug Eating Festival.
“The festival was founded by Marjory Wildcraft. She started nine years ago with some friends and families who wanted to try bugs for the first time. They had such a blast they did it again, and more people showed up the next year, and it grew,” RNA said. “I got involved with this idea at the 5th Annual Bug Eating Festival; I brought some cricket flour cookies I baked and just fell in love with the idea. Since then I’ve helped organize the festival. Originally it was a way to get people together to try bugs, and now it’s grown as a way to see insects as a resource and to celebrate all the good work that’s happening in Austin around food and sustainability.”
Little Herds has gathered together a group of local bakers and chefs – Chef Rick Lopez from La Condesa, Aketta Cricket Flour, Crickers and Delysia Chocolatier – to bring insect-enriched treats to Part II of the 9th Annual Bug Eating Festival on Wednesday, July 13 for curious eaters to try. Taste the future of food and sustainable protein in the form of gourmet cricket cookies and chocolates, spiced mealworms and cricket salsa.
“One of the great things about edible insects is that if you don’t want to see them, you don’t have to – you can grind them up into flours,” RNA said. “It’s not a one-to-one replacement of regular flour, but you can sub in a portion of the flour in recipes, and you’ll still get that additional protein, iron and calcium that weren’t there before. Crickets have really good omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; they have fiber. It’s just mind-blowing how healthy they are, and we’ve just been missing out on it.”
Since Little Herd’s inception in June 2013, they have focused on educating children about entomophagy and getting kids excited to eat bugs. “We have educator kits designed to be taught at schools around Austin that can be catered to any age group,” RNA said. “If we get 1% of kids in Austin to eat insects, we can show how much water is saved and how much greenhouse gas is saved from just a small number people.” Part II of the 9th Annual Bug (Eating) Festival will feature even more activities for kids to learn about the benefits of bugs and how to eat them.
“Parents know it’s nutritious and environmentally beneficial, and kids don’t have built-in taboos,” RNA said. “Trends change throughout history. We’re trying to change the mentality that insects are gross food.”
Little Herds is part of a larger movement to repopularize eating insects as a sustainable protein alternative. Although entomophagy is practiced throughout the world in countries like Mexico, the idea is relatively new in the United States.
“It’s a cultural taboo that’s built up over time for a variety of reasons. As our ancestors moved up north from the equator and bugs got smaller, people stopped eating insects. Due to agriculture, bugs weren’t needed as a food supply,” RNA said. “There are a lot of places where eating insects is traditional, but for younger generations it’s starting to be seen as something your grandmother did. If we make eating insects part of our modern food culture it won’t have that effect. In Mexico, eating insects is still celebrated as a traditional food. There are restaurants throughout the country that serve traditional Oaxacan chapulines.”
Little Herds has three “core principles” it recommends to anyone interested in trying insects for the first time: be safe, be kind (to other eaters, insects and the planet) and be curious.
“It’s fun to surprise people but we want to make sure people are safe; if you have a shellfish allergy you may be allergic to insects,” RNA said. “If someone doesn’t want to try, that’s okay. Everyone has a food they don’t like, and they don’t need someone bullying them about it.”
Little Herds works to promote ethical insect farming that does not disturb local ecosystems. Insects can be safely and humanely harvested through freezing, “lowering their temperature like they would hibernate in the wild.”
“Be kind to the animals; insects are living creatures and sentient beings,” RNA said. “We are not saying go in your backyard and try bugs; you don’t know where those are from. If you harvest bugs from the wild they may have parasites or your neighbor may spray pesticides. Part of being safe is knowing where your food comes from – you should want to know where your food is grown and the way it’s processed. You want to know that it’s safe for animals.”
This summer, Little Herds launched a crowdfunding campaign through Barnraiser to expand their programs in Austin and abroad. Rewards for donating include a jar of Cricket Bolognese Pasta Sauce, a grow-your-own mealworms kit (that comes equipped with a mealworm cookbook and farm) and a cricket-chocolate making class with Delysia Chocolatier – make sure to donate and claim your reward before their crowdfunding deadline of midnight Friday, July 15.
“The first day we received an anonymous matching donation for up to $4000 if we reached our first goal by the following Saturday. The community rallied, and we hit our goal by Friday,” RNA said. “We have some really great stretch goals that are going to be impactful for the local Austin community.”
Little Herds is still working to meet their third fundraising goal of reaching $25,000, which will allow them to host the second ever “Eating Insects” conference in the U.S. next year in Austin. RNA attended “Eating Insects Detroit,” the first conference in the U.S. devoted to insects for food and feed, and came back inspired to do the same in Austin.
“The conference gave me a huge injection of energy and ideas,” RNA said. “Over 150 international business founders joined the conference along with insect farmers and experts leading research looking at the psychology and marketing of eating insects. There were film screenings, a pop-up insect dinner and a food truck-serving insects. The conference was a snapshot of what people are doing all around the world, and how this can apply to Austin. We were just blown away by how this conference went for its first year; bringing it to Austin next year just makes so much sense. We can make it coincide with the 10th Annual Bug Eating Festival.”
Similar to Part I of the 9th Annual Bug (Eating) Festival, Part II will have an Ento Raffle benefitting Little Herds Barnraiser campaign with insect cookbooks, edible insect t-shirts and tote bags, and baking ingredients like cricket flour and Delysia chocolate. The event is open to the public and entrance costs a suggested donation of $10 to Little Herds (kids are free!) – purchase tickets in advance online or at the door.
First time trying insects? Little Herds encourages people to check out their website for resources on how to eat insects safely.
Stephanie Ciancio lives in San Fransisco but insists on taking a trip to in.gredients every time she visits her best friend in Austin. Stephanie’s commitment to living a zero waste lifestyle and changing how she shops has led her to start Nesting So Hard, a service that helps people reorganize their kitchens and commit to zero waste habits.
in: How did you hear about in.gredients?
SC: I think maybe Pinterest or Facebook, it was something that friends of mine shared. My best friend Suzanne lives in Austin, when I came here I asked her, “Please take me to this place!” That was a couple years ago, and when I’m back in town I’m like, “Let’s go to in.gredients again!”
in: So you always come to in.gredients when you’re in Austin?
in: What do you like about in.gredients?
SC: I love that it’s a cute little shop that helps people buy exactly what they need and not what they don’t – which is the food that you eat and not necessarily a bunch of extra packaging.
in: Do you try to live a zero-waste lifestyle?
SC: I’m a little obsessive about it. My husband is very understanding. I won’t actually throw away clear plastic. I collect it and take it to the one place it can be recycled; so I try not to get it in the first place. We live in San Francisco, and we compost. And I miss composting when I travel. I had to go on a restricted diet for my digestive health, and I started cooking a lot. And that’s when I got into shopping for bulk foods like quinoa and millet. I get a farm subscription for the produce. It’s a fun thing to play at, to get to the zero waste lifestyle. I like to approach it like a game, like how do we get more of what we want and less of what we don’t want rather than demonizing anything. I grew up shopping at Publix, but it’s so much more fun to shop at a pretty place that approaches food from a different angle and has farm relationships and local sourcing.
in: What is your advice for people looking to live a zero waste lifestyle?
SC: That’s a great question because that’s what I’ve just started doing as a service. I help people makeover their kitchens. And the starting point is, what do you like to cook? What do you like to eat – can you cook that? What ingredients do you use a lot of? And how can you streamline getting ahold of those ingredients, whether it’s a CSA delivery or having a system of containers that you always have. It’s so great to know that we can eat most of our meals at home and that most of what we need can be purchased in bulk. I had a commitment to my health that had me cook and eat in a different way. I no longer went to the grocery store when I remembered, it was part of my lifestyle to procure the food that I prepare and eat. You can create a system where you have containers in your car trunk. Or you can create a system where you have a bag of containers ready to go and you create a shopping list, and when you realize there are a lot of things on your list you grab the bag and you go. For me it was a progression. I still buy things I wasn’t planning on buying. But if you look back 5 or 10 years ago, no one every brought their bags, and now it’s like “Oh I forgot my bags this time.” So there’s been a shift already.
in: What’s the name of your business?
SC: Nesting So Hard. I do one-day kitchen makeovers, and I focus on using Mason jars and getting people really acquainted and familiarized and falling in love with their local bulk grocer.
Read more about Nesting So Hard on Stephanie’s blog.
Photo by Suzanne Pressman, Pressman Studio
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