Ah, Christmas. It’s right around the corner, and it’s bringing some scrumptious feeds along with it. The snap, crackle, pop of some pork crackling. The succulent breeze that wafts from the Christmas ham. And who could forget Mother’s famous plate of… Mealworms?
That’s right, mealworms. According to Skye Blackburn, the creator of the insect farm Circle Harvest, mealworms are excellent feed any time of the year. Blackburn also advocates for Aussies to eat crickets, ants, and other insects.
What’s more, Blackburn has some pretty compelling evidence as to why these items should be on your Christmas list. From her perspective, they are both environmentally sustainable and delicious.
Part One: The Story of Skye Blackburn
Skye Blackburn didn’t grow up wanting to be an insect farmer. She didn’t have dreams of turning cricket protein into corn chips. Sure, as an adult, she became an entomologist and food scientist. But even during her time at Western Sydney University, insects just weren’t on her radar.
Fortunately, everything changed when she went on a trip to Thailand, where she tried edible insects for the first time.
“I thought it was fascinating,” Blackburn said. “So when I returned home, I made 1000 edible insect lollipops for an expo my education business was exhibiting at.”
Now, at this expo, something surprising happened. Within an hour, Blackburn had sold all of her lollipops. Additionally, in the following weeks, a bunch of marketing companies and lolly stores called her asking for more.
However, Blackburn couldn’t start selling these lollipops while not knowing their nutritional details.
As Blackburn explained, “I’m an entomologist, but also a food scientist, so I knew that there needed to be correct retail and nutritional labelling on the packs before we could sell them. I sent away some crickets and mealworms for nutritional testing in the lab, and when I got the results back, I was shocked.”
But what made her results so shocking? Well, Blackburn learnt that eating mealworms for dinner is a good time for the bod.
“They were just so nutrient-dense,” Blackburn said. “It was at that moment, I felt I had the perfect combination of skills to convince people that eating insects is a good idea.”
And the rest is history. In 2007, Blackburn started her company, now called Circle Harvest.
Part Two: The Sustainability of Our Crickets
From a sustainability standpoint, farming animals like cattle can be a bit tricky. This is because these creatures need a tonne of land to graze. Additionally, the digestive systems of our cattle consistently release a tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere.
But according to Skye Blackburn, insects and bugs don’t suffer from these issues. They can be farmed in compact areas. They also don’t release a concerning amount of CO2.
When comparing traditional farms to her cricket farms, Blackburn noted, “We can farm more protein per square metre. By farming insects inside unused warehouses, we leave arable land available for farming different crops.”
“We can also stack the enclosures that we use to house the crickets on top of each other, kind of like little bug apartments, so we are using this space much more efficiently.”
But the good news doesn’t stop there. According to Blackburn, Circle Harvest feeds its insects heaps of expiring fruit and veggies.
“Because we are using fruit and vegetable waste as feed for our insects, we are saving lots of resources in our food chain, including water,” Blackburn said. “By replacing just one meat-based meal a week with a meal that uses crickets as your source of protein, you can save over 100,000 litres of water every year.”
Part Three: Is Eating Mealworms Becoming Normal?
From Skye Blackburn’s perspective, eating insects has grown more normal as the years have gone by.
“When we first started in 2007, no one even knew about edible insects or the issues we face with food security,” Blackburn said. “If we were at an event, people didn’t want to engage with us because they were scared.”
“Now consumers are much more educated about sustainability within our food system and the important role edible insects will play in that food system.”
However, eating insects is still far from a mainstream activity. So, if you want to help change this situation, maybe think about picking up some mealworms or crickets this Christmas. Who knows, maybe even your granny will like them.
If you want to purchase some Circle Harvest products for yourself, then click the link here.