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Oh Jiminy! Utah business makes energy bars from crickets

Food » High in protein, insects are an international delicacy



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Not only were insects widely used as Native Americans’ winter food storage, they also were a delicacy. The mixture of insects, pine nuts and berries left to dry in the sun was called "desert fruitcake."

Dunkel tells these Utah stories in her lectures on how insects can save lives, saying Native Americans’ reserves of bugs helped Mormon pioneers survive.

At a glance

Are they vegetarian?

The Chapul bars are gluten-free, since they’re made with coconut flour. But are they vegan or vegetarian? Owner Pat Crowley, who notes that his chefs are vegetarian, said it depends on the eater’s reasons for foregoing animals. People motivated by health or environmental reasons may be willing to eat insects. Those who eschew meat for animal welfare reasons may not.

Insects could cause allergies. Those who have a shellfish crustacean allergy are warned they could have the same problem with insects.

Where to buy Chapul Bars in the Salt Lake City area

Salt Lake City

Cali’s Natural Foods » 389 W. 1700 South; 801-483-2254.

Earth Goods General Store » 1249 S. 900 East; 801-746-4410

Liberty Heights Fresh Market » 1290 S. 1100 East; 801-583-7374

Mololo Gardens » 361 W. 400 South; 801-366-6000

2Nd Track Sports » 2927 E. 3300 South; 801-466-9880

Jade Market » 353 W. 200 South; 801-521-2106

Off The Grid » Salt Lake City food truck, http://www.offthegridslc.com/

Corner Market Store » 203 Hampton Avenue; 801-484-0204

Taqueria 27 & Coffee Bar » 1615 S. Foothill Drive; 385-259-0712

The Leonardo » 209 E. 500 South; 801-531-9800

Vernal

OARS » 221 N. 400 East; 1-800-346-6277

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And Crowley is using it as inspiration for his newest energy bar, to be called Wasatch.

But the first new flavor, out in April, will be called the Aztec bar. Made with dark cocoa, coffee and spices, Crowley had to tweak the recipe because a taste-tester thought the crunch was from the crickets. It was the coffee.

Now, the kick just comes from the cayenne.

Saving the planet • Crowley, who runs the company with three partners, support from friends and family and an infusion of $16,000 from Kickstarter, doesn’t want the bars to be a novelty product. However, sales were strongest at Christmas as stocking stuffers. And he jokingly guesses that half the customers who buy the bars plan to give it to their wives to eat before they know the ingredients.

While the packaging features artistic pictures of crickets, Crowley is hesitant to have actual crickets photographed in connection with the food. He considers the energy bars the "California roll of bugs," easing people into trying insects just as the California roll — which was free of raw fish — helped Americans feel less wary about eating sushi.

Steven Rosenberg, owner of Liberty Heights Fresh — the top seller of Chapul bars — said he was hesitant to sell them at first. But he was sold on the mission of the product, and the taste.

He said customers who buy it are those who "share some of the same values that I share. People who want to eat healthy food that’s delicious, nutritious and not a great burden to the planet."


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It was the planet — its water in particular — that put Crowley on the path from hydrologist and whitewater rafting guide to rolling dough in a kitchen in Artspace Commons. Experts say the agriculture industry consumes most of the world’s freshwater, using it on land to grow livestock. It’s estimated that producing livestock also creates one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases. After hearing a TED talk called "Why not eat insects?," Crowley saw a solution to this pressing environmental problem.

Insects, Crowley calculates, use one-tenth the amount of water needed to produce the same amount of beef. Put another way, 10 pounds of feed creates 1 pound of beef, but 8 pounds of crickets.

"This is a project that is a game changer, if you change a fraction of our protein to rearing insects instead of cows," he said. "It’s not a silver bullet, which doesn’t exist, but it’s an example of something that’s radically different."

He’s finding customers are willing to try it once. But will they keep coming back?

hmay@sltrib.com

food@sltrib.com



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