If Canadians Wanted to Eat Crickets, We Wouldn’t Be Forced to Subsidize the Cricket Farm

I know a Canadian man who lives in Thailand. He teaches English as his primary occupation, but he and his wife also have a “hobby farm” raising crickets in large wooden bins in their home. When the insects are ready for harvesting, his wife—a Thai native—fries them up with popular Thai seasonings. The crickets are then sold as snacks on the local streets.

For Thais, eating insects isn’t novel. Take a look at some of the other mouth-watering delicacies they eat: bamboo worms, silkworms, grasshoppers and giant water bugs.

Thais aren’t the only people in the world who eat insects. “Consumers in Latin America are already familiar with eating insects as food or snacks,” according to this Mexican bureaucrat in charge of food safety.

Recently, however, it has been announced that Canada, of all places – where I’ve lived all my life and have never known anyone to eat crickets – will become home to the world’s largest cricket farm, newly built in London, Ontario by Aspire Food Group. The company’s CEO, Mohammed Ashour, predicts that North Americans will soon join two billion other people on the planet who, he claims, already eat insects.

Note, though, that the world’s insect-eaters are almost all in third-world countries. While they may be making the best of their impoverished situation by spicing up bugs to palatability, I’ll bet most of them wouldn’t turn down a good beef steak if it were offered to them. The Thai restaurants I’ve been to in North America offer beef, pork, shrimp and chicken on the menu, but I’ve never seen one offer worms, grasshoppers or crickets.

People eat bugs primarily when they can’t afford more appetizing forms of protein. I checked with a friend in the nearby but much wealthier country of Singapore. He loves to buy street food from the famous “hawker centers”, but he told me that, no, he has never seen anyone selling crickets. Singapore’s per capita GDP is seven times that of Thailand. Even Malaysians, who live right next door to Thailand but have a GDP per capita that’s 54% higher, don’t eat crickets, although there are apparently insect agriculture start-ups gearing up right now, just as in Canada. I wonder why.

Aspire’s enormous spanking-new plant has been subsidized by a million-dollar award (the Hult Prize) received from the United Nations. As well, the company appears to have received $16.8 million from Canadian taxpayers through something called NGen (Next Generation Manufacturing Canada). It looks as though that’s just the first instalment, however; the project total for the “insect protein supply chain in Canada” is shown on NGen’s website as $73 million.

Aspire’s website acknowledges that it also received a third government grant, namely $10 million from STDC (Sustainable Development Technology Canada) in June 2020.  SDTC describes itself as “a foundation created by the Government of Canada in 2001 to invest in clean technologies that address climate change, air quality, clean water and clean soil.”

I emailed Aspire to ask about any other government grants they might have received, and how much of their capital came from other sources besides government. I identified myself as a freelance writer and told them I was hoping to write about them in Western Standard. The response I received from their Sales & Marketing Operations Manager was: “Hello Karen, There is no one available to respond to your questions. Take care, Simone”.

According to The Economist, the global insect market is worth $1 billion today but is expected to rise to $8 billion by 2030. It’s not clear whether that’s in constant or inflation-adjusted dollars. But more importantly, should we interpret this as a sign of a booming new industry, or a sign that the world’s population will be so seriously impoverished within the next eight years that many more of us will have no choice but to eat crickets?

Currently, the global market for beef stands at $330 billion – clearly the more popular food.

But anyone who’s been awake over the past two years is aware of the World Economic Forum video The Great Reset, (“You’ll own nothing, and you’ll be happy”) which predicts that by 2030, “You’ll eat much less meat. An occasional treat, not a staple. For the good of the environment and our health.”

Aspire also makes a big deal about the environment, branding itself  as “technology pioneers building…the most environmentally responsible protein production system in the world.”

Meanwhile, I keep hearing about incidents such as the mysterious sudden death of 10,000 head of cattle in Kansas, allegedly from excessive heat, or 500 sheep instantaneously struck dead by lightning in Georgia (Europe). One source says 97 fires have damaged or destroyed food processing plants in the US since Biden took office. Christian Westbrook, who blogs and podcasts under the name of Ice Age Farmer, documents news stories like these. He believes that the much of the destruction is deliberate, as tyrants around the world take steps to render populations more dependent than ever on government for their very survival.

Aspire is working with NACIA, the North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture, to normalize cricket consumption for North Americans. Here’s the public version of their report on how this might be accomplished: by positioning crickets as an eco-friendly, nutritionally dense “superfood”. One can only imagine what the private version of the report might say.

Normalization propaganda is already being prepared. This study, published by the US National Library of Medicine, “is expected to promote greater recognition of crickets as a source of food, feed, and other benefits in the world and encourage up-scaling by farming them for sustainable utilization”. It was funded by various governments around the world, including Canada’s.

A search for “crickets” in this database of Canadian Government Grants and Contributions revealed 24 separate grants totalling $13.8 million for food-related purposes, including another $8.5 million for Aspire Food Group under something called the AgriInnovate Program.

As a taxpayer, I object strenuously to this use of my money for the manipulation of people’s eating habits.  If people wanted to eat crickets, they’d buy them without any need for subsidies. If they don’t want to, they shouldn’t be continually pushed into doing so, with their own tax dollars doing the pushing.

As far as the environment is concerned, there are other, non-coercive ways of making agriculture more productive while improving the environment. Farmer Joel Salatin of the famous Polyface Farm has lectured and written about this for decades. His method of regenerative agriculture restores land fertility while producing five times as much per acre as the neighbouring farms in his county. Regenerative Salatin-style farms are popping up all over the place in Canada. I’ve been buying all my meat, eggs, honey and flour from such farms for at least five years. These farmers work hard, improve their land, feed their customers, but if they make a profit at it—whoosh! It’s syphoned off to subsidize their cricket-rearing competitors. Pardon the pun, but it’s just not cricket.

I’m also suspicious about the alleged eco-friendly nature of cricket farming. Put bluntly, do crickets fart? Aspire’s CEO says they don’t produce methane. But if you search the words “crickets stink” on Google, you get almost 8 million hits. Whatever it is that crickets and their excrement off-gas, it doesn’t seem to smell like roses.

To my mind, the whole idea stinks. I think there’ll be a lot more resistance to abandoning beef and adopting cricket burgers than the government and its teat-suckers imagine.

Reprinted from Western Standard

Also available as a video.

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