It’s hard to hear anything over the chirping. Cardboard boxes filled with egg cartons and sheets of plastic buzz with thousands of young-adult crickets calling out to one another to mate. The brush of the insects’ legs against the various surfaces sounds like hail on a tin roof. Their feed, which sits on top of the cartons on paper plates, looks like a cross between sawdust and sand.
Gabriel Mott, the chief operating officer of Aspire Food Group, yells above the noise and points inside one of the boxes. “You see the one with the wings?” he asks. “That’s a female. They get their wings at their final stage.”
We’re standing inside an old lumberyard in Austin, Texas, that Mott’s company has repurposed into an industrial cricket farm. The 13,000-square-foot space contains multiple rooms stacked with hundreds of boxes, each one home to crickets living through their six-week life cycle. Cricket farmers and geopolitical futurists speculate that entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, considered ordinary in other countries, could eventually be considered normal in the West.
Many entomophagy proponents claim that 80 percent of the world’s nations eat insects, a figure that’s often cited but difficult to substantiate. Mott believes that the number is misleading. He points to a more conservative estimate from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which says 20 percent of the world’s consumers eat insects. Regardless of the precise number, though, relatively few members of the world’s insect-eating population reside in Western countries, the market that Aspire is trying to win over. Mott and others at the forefront of the country’s burgeoning cricket-farming industry are banking on the risky proposition that a taste for insects in the West will jump from obscurity to trend to normalcy.