Q&A with Laura D'Asaro, Co-founder of Six Foods
Q: What makes you stand out?
A: We make food with insects to get the West excited about insects as a more sustainable protein. The livestock industry is one of the biggest causes of environmental issues in this world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and water use. If people ate insects instead of meat it would make a big difference. It takes 2,000 gallons of water to make 1lb of beef, but it only takes 1 gallon of water to make 1lb of crickets, and they produce 100x fewer greenhouse gas emissions for the same amount of beef. How do we get people over the “ick” factor? That’s where we come in! We make chips called Chirps from cricket flour. They have 3x the protein of normal chips, and they are a fun way to start eating insects in a more familiar form.
Q: Why do you care?
A: The whole idea started when I was studying abroad in Tanzania and I met a woman selling fried caterpillars on the side of the road. I hesitated because I’ve been on and off vegetarianism my whole life. How do insects fit into this idea of vegetarianism? But I was curious. So I bought one and put it in my mouth before I could think too much about how it looked. When I bit down my first thought was ‘Wow! This tastes like lobster!’ (which actually makes sense because insects and crustaceans are closely related). I started researching insects, and the more I found out the more excited I got. They are healthy, sustainable, and can be raised humanely. At the end all I could think was “Why AREN’T we eating insects?”
Q: Is being responsible good for business?
A: Yes. A year ago, people thought we were crazy, but now people are getting curious about the health and environmental benefits of eating insects. When we tell people what we do often they will say, ‘High protein, right?’ or ‘Super sustainable, right?’ People really love the social mission behind a seemingly crazy idea.
Q: Has the business changed you?
A: Yes, it has made me a lot more open minded. I wasn’t always a super adventurous eater, but when someone offers me something unfamiliar, I catch myself from saying ‘eww, no thanks…’ and give it a try! After all, there’s all sorts of things that people used to find unappealing that have made it into the mainstream. Lobster used to be considered disgusting and even fed to prisoners, and think of all the weird things we eat in sushi! Six Foods has made me more open to new foods, new ideas, and to being proved wrong.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I love that every day we get to change people’s minds. Watching their expressions change from horror at the idea of eating insects to excitement about the idea is incredible. There is this feeling of real change, that if we can get people to eat bugs, anything is possible.
Q: Plans for the future?
A: Chirps are just the beginning. We are trying to normalize eating insects, and to do that, we need to take people on a journey from insects as an ingredient to insects as a meat alternative. Our vision is that one day you could walk into a store or restaurant and buy a beef burger, a chicken burger or an ‘entoburger’ (insect burger)!