This week, the Senate is considering a package of spending bills that fund a variety of programs and activities, like the IRS, food stamps, housing grants, national parks, and cricket farms. Wait, come again?
That’s right. The federal government is spending $1.3 million to support cricket farming and the development of other bug-based food. The funds are provided by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which was formed in 2008 to fund agricultural research activities.
All Things Bugs of Georgia received $1.3 million from NIFA for “reducing cost, improving efficiency and safety of farming crickets as food ingredients.” Bugeater Labs of Nebraska received $100,000 to determine the most edible insects. The lab makes a cricket-based protein shake and is working on bug based pasta.
Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has proposed an amendment to eliminate the cricket farming subsidies. He points out that cricket powder costs $35 per pound. A more traditional American staple, ground beef, sells for $3.80 per pound. Flake also flags the important point that an all-time high 2.5 billion pounds of beef, pork, poultry and turkey is currently being stockpiled.
So even if we ignore the absurdity of a demand in American culture for bug meals, the venture doesn’t make economic sense either. Unless the government steps in. As Julie Lesnik, an anthropology professor at Wayne State University says, “Crickets will never be as cheap as beef unless the government realizes the potential and they help with this movement.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets the rules on how much insects can be safely contained in our food. The USDA wants insects to be our food. Unless Senator Flake gets his way.