Little Herds is a local non-profit dedicated to sustainability, environmental protection, and health, and they do this by eating lots and lots of bugs.
Confused? Entomophagy, or insect eating, has been practiced for thousands of years, and is still a part of daily culinary tradition across the globe (today, two billion people include insects in their regular diet!). While it may raise some eyebrows around these parts, Little Herds is focused on educating our community about entomophagy as an environmentally sound and economically viable way to feed the world. They’ve even visited the Thinkery recently, offering bug samples to families (and they will be back on Sunday, March 9th!).
While we’re celebrating American Heart Month, it seemed interesting to learn about the health benefits of bugs! Little Herds’ founder Robert Nathan Allen, answered a few questions for the Thinkery, and they’re always eager to hear yours! Find them on Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about their outreach through their crowdfunding campaign, just days away from the end!
When did you form Little Herds, and what made you decide to start this really unique non-profit organization?
The idea began in March 2012 when my mother sent me a video, as a joke, about eating insects. Little Herds officially incorporated as a nonprofit in June of 2013, and we got our 501c3 in December 2013. I did a lot of research online, and noticed that other cities around the US were starting to work with edible insects, and lots of businesses were starting to look into them, but there weren’t any advocacy groups talking to the public about why we should be eating bugs. I believe Austin is the perfect city for it; we love things that are healthy, sustainable and weird, and edible insects hits all three!
How did you get interested in entomophagy? How long have you been eating bugs (intentionally, that is!)?
2 years ago, before I saw that video, I would never have imagined eating a bug. It was really just a perfect storm situation; I saw a need to be filled in the entomophagy (insect-eating) community, and decided I could make a truly lasting change, in our community and beyond, by working to fill it. The people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned on the journey have really helped me open my mind and my appetite to some wonderful new things, including eating insects.
What’s the response been like, amongst both adults and kids? What was the response like in our Kitchen Lab?
Strangely enough, the response around town from adults and kids has been resoundingly positive! When you turn the bugs into flour and use them in everyday recipes like chocolate chip cookies, where you can’t see them or taste them or feel them, it’s a much easier sell. The vast majority of people, after learning about how healthy and sustainable they are, will take a bite of a cookie. Once they take that bite, and realize it’s tasty, they’re sold. I’d say the response rate post-cookie is 99.99% positive. The kids in Kitchen Lab loved it! Kids are open to trying things we adults have closed our minds to. Once a kid wants to eat a bug, the parents are usually quick to find out why the heck we’re feeding them bugs, and that’s the perfect chance to educate the parents.
What are you hoping to accomplish with the projects and events at Little Herds?
We’re hoping to change the world. By cutting back on the amount of traditional meat we eat, like beef, pork, and even chicken, and adopting insects into our diet, we can help reduce the environmental damage these industries cause. Insect farming could help reduce deforestation, overfishing, greenhouse gas emissions, waste water runoff, and provide more space and energy to grow more food for people. This is a way to feed the starving and hungry around the world, as well as at home, in a way that’s economically and environmentally sustainable. Our organization and events are helping to change the psychological taboo of eating insects, and helping people learn what an underutilized resource this is.
It’s American Heart Month- any sort of heart healthy benefits we can find in bugs?
It depends on the insect, as there are thousands of species we can eat. Generally speaking though, when compared to traditional meat sources, insects are lower in bad fats and higher in good fats like omega 3s and 6s. They’re also higher in iron, calcium and other vitamins and minerals like zinc, copper, magnesium (good for your heart), B vitamins, and many other things we don’t get in our usual protein sources. They’re also a complete protein, with all the amino acids like L-Carnitine your body requires but can’t make on it’s own!