By Jaime Polmateer
Clearwater has a new business starting up and its product might have people chirping.
Clearwater Cricket Farms Inc., which started up in April, has its owners’ raising crickets for human consumption, and the group is trying to bring the ingredient from the fringes of the food industry to an alternative—and appealing—source of protein.
“People have been eating bugs forever, but it’s been a recent trend and it’s crossing into North America as a sustainable replacement to typical livestock farming,” said cricket wrangler, Joey Bedard, who started the company with his business partners Greg Dudley and Bill Parman.
“Instead of raising chicken, beef and pigs, people are entertaining raising crickets because the protein efficiency is way higher and you get a far more nutrient dense product at the end, for a lot fewer resources, a lot less input, and a lot less agricultural land.”
It should be noted that the crickets aren’t eaten whole, but turned into powder and can be used as a baking ingredient like flour, or added to things like protein shakes.
Bedard noted over the last few years companies that raise crickets as pet feed for people who own reptiles had started manually harvesting them and turning them into powder, but this method is labour intensive and not very sustainable, because the price comes to about $20 for a pound of powder, and his company is devising a way to do it much cheaper and on a mass scale.
“This is the beginning of treating crickets like an actual livestock commodity product where all we’re going to do is mass raise them, harvest them once a month, 100 per cent for the goal of making powder and this facility should bring in between 5,000 and 12,000 pounds of cricket powder every month,” he said.
“We want to help build the mentality that crickets aren’t gross; once you try it, you don’t know they’re in the food. It tastes like a normal cookie, for example, but now this cookie has nine grams of protein—there’s a lot of education left to go, but the demand is growing.”
Last year $700 million worth of cricket powder was imported in North America alone, Bedard added.
During product testing, Clearwater Cricket Farms Inc. tried the powder in cheesecake and cookies, and the group said aside from making the food a darker colour, there was no difference in taste than that of baking with traditional ingredients.
“I’ve never seen feedback from someone that said they tried something with cricket powder and it tasted gross,” said Bedard.
“The cookies we made were very heavy in cricket powder and you couldn’t tell. The colour was definitely browner than a normal chocolate chip cookie, but the taste was the same.”
He also mentioned they don’t intend to sell the product to the general public, but are instead supplying bulk powder to retailers around the country and overseas.
Bedard, who also does farm consulting, got into the cricket business after Wholefoods approached him to do a test because the corporation was looking into cricket powder, and after a little research, he and his co-wranglers decided to take on cricket farming for themselves.
“Once we started looking into it, the pro-activeness that a large company like Wholefoods had towards the product gave us a lot of hope,” he said.
“From there I started harassing everybody in the world who buys cricket powder and we quickly realized there’s clearly a huge demand for this.”
Though Clearwater Cricket Farms Inc. hasn’t ground any of its own cricket powder yet, it has several contracts from clients who intend to purchase the product and he said by this time next year the group hopes to be serving about 12 companies.
The goal is to have the first harvest on July 1 and Bedard and co. are aiming to get more than 1,000 pounds of product out of it.