As radio-television-film senior Ross Bullington packs away his homework after a study session at local grocery store in.gredients, he reaches for his post-study snack of choice, the Hopper Bar. What looks like an ordinary protein bar is actually part of a conscious decision by Bullington to include insects in his diet.
“Insects are just much more efficient in terms of converting feed into calories for people to eat,” Bullington said. “You can feed them food scraps that would otherwise be thrown away, and you can [raise them in] these vertical bug farms so that you’re using less land — instead of a whole pasture for a cow.”
In a class lecture on sustainability, Bullington learned about entomophagy, an environmentally friendly alternative to other meat-based diets. Shortly after, he decided to assist his friend and now UT alumnus, Renzo Tomlinson, in raising edible mealworms in his closet
The two got the chance to play around with making homemade meals using the worms, and Bullington decided to take further steps to connect to the entomophagy community through local nonprofits such as Little Herds, which focuses on the advocacy of bug eating.
When Bullington received a film assignment in one of his radio-televsion-film classes, he used the opportunity to create “Bug
Brothers,” a short documentary that explores the edible insect resources available in Austin. He was surprised to find the Austin entomophagy community is one of the largest in the nation. In June, Austin’s seventh annual bug-eating festival celebrated its return to Zilker Park in order to accommodate all the patrons.
Students can expect to have an increased amount of access to edible bug products, with companies such as World Entomophagy and Hopper Foods working to make insect products available to the public. One such product comes in the form of Cricker Crackers, a cricket flour-based paleo cracker developed by UT alumna Megan McDonald and Southwestern University alumna Leah Jones. The two will begin selling the crackers at the Republic Square farmers’ market every Saturday starting Nov. 8.
“There’s four times as much calcium [in a cup of ground crickets] as in a cup of milk. [There are] 70 grams of protein in one cup of crickets, tons of B vitamins, magnesium, fiber [and] iron,” Jones said.
McDonald and Jones hope that their grassroots approach will gain a strong local following for the cause and their product. They plan to limit Cricker Cracker sales to local markets for the time being and consider expansion to commercial retailers more of a long-term goal.
Jack Ceadel, founder and CEO of Hopper Foods, originally turned to crickets as a food source in an effort to conserve water. Ceadel was inspired by his work with nonprofits such as the Global Water Foundation.
“They have very low water requirements in comparison with traditional livestock,” Ceadel said. “If you’re wanting to produce one pound of beef compared to one pound of crickets, it takes 1,000 times more water.”
The Hopper Bar, which proudly names cricket powder as one of its main ingredients, will begin to establish more of a presence around Austin as it starts shipping to more retailers in early 2015. Hopper Foods also plans on directly including students in its business, as it looks for interns and campus representatives.
Ceadel said students will play an integral role in the growth and development of the bug-eating movement.
“Students really are leaders of our generation,” Jones said. “If students can set the example, that’s huge.”