Protein: Past, Present and Future
Have you ever considered the future of food on this planet? In the UK, we are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of western diets and in particular, high meat consumption. The UK is stereotypically known for its diet of 'meat and two veg', and it appears that a greater percentage of the planet's population is converting to a similar diet, requiring higher levels of meat production worldwide.
Scientists are therefore not only questioning whether the planet can sustain this growth of meat and crop farming, but also how demand for protein can be sustainably met in the future. As livestock farming increases, so too does the demand for crops for feed, requiring larger expanses of land to be utilised in food production. Due to the nature of livestock farming, there is a limit to how efficiently farmers can utilise land without compromising the quality of their product. Therefore, food scientists are having to explore alternative options for protein substitutes to traditional meat products.
A popular protein alternative that has amassed media attention over the last few years are bugs and insects, but in particular, crickets. The prospect of eating bugs as a main component of our diets has often raised eyebrows as people tend to have an inherent aversion to these species. However, perceptions are changing as people come to terms with the positive aspects of eating products containing bugs and insects. Peoples' attitude towards food is often shaped in its appearance and scent, (such as some new vegetarians craving bacon when they smell it cooking). The appeal of bugs and insects is therefore inherently low. When cooked whole, they will often be fried in an assortment of spices to enhance or 'cover' their flavour. Such practices have been popular in the Far East for a long time.
However, new uses of bugs and insects are coming to the fore, including the creation of insect flour. Crickets in particular, are as naturally high in protein as beef (60g/100g), and although the idea of eating an equivalent portion of crickets in lieu of steak may not seem as appealing to meat-lovers, the use of cricket flour is becoming increasingly versatile. Thus, we introduce the 'Crobar'; a new energy bar that contains 16%-19% natural protein, thanks to the use of cricket flour. In addition to being high in protein, cricket flour also contains five times more magnesium, two times more zinc and three times more iron than beef, as well as nine essential amino acids and other vitamins; making these bars a brilliant post-workout snack to restore and build. For those who may be curious, the bars are also completely gluten-, dairy-, grain-, soy- and GMO-free; and paleo friendly.
At present, Crobars come in two flavours; Cacao and Peanut. I gave each one a try post-gym, in lieu of my usual banana or Nakd bar snack. First in line was the Cacao, and I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. I expected the bar to be dry and sandy on my tongue, but instead I noticed it was rich and even fruity in flavour. Similar to when eating high-quality dark chocolate, there was as berry-like taste to the Crobar, and its consistency was smooth but not sticky. The chocolate one disappeared quickly, posing a challenge to my usual favourite post-gym snack, Nakd's 'Cocoa Delight'; as well as giving me an extra protein boost. The Peanut bar was equally intriguing, with a good balance of sunflower seed-to-peanut flavour; and an additional 3% protein. The combination of seeds and nuts felt wholesome and tasted delicious. Having had a sample size of each, I would readily go back and buy a bigger box so that I have one ready to hand each time I hit the gym or go on a long run. Not only does it feel good to try something new, but it is also exciting to break down the common stereotype that bugs and insects have to be eaten whole or in an unsavoury, foreign fashion.
Interestingly, Gathr Foods are not the only company at present trying to challenge and change peoples' attitudes towards meat-based protein consumption and its associated norms. Riverford Organic Farm, based in Devon has recently launched their own 'How Much Meat?' campaign, which seeks to make people re-consider the quantity of meat they consume per week. In a seemingly controversial move, Riverford (a meat-farming company) are asking people to pledge to 'Drop A Day' and eat meat-free/meat-reduced meals for one-to-seven days a week. Furthermore, the campaign also educates people and raises awareness of the amount of meat-based protein we consume on a daily basis, whether this is directly from the consumption of meat, or through products such as milk, cheese and butter. Perhaps it is time to re-think how we choose to ingest protein, and the sustainability of its sources. I have yet to find out how challenging it is to cook with cricket flour, in comparison to other 'usual' options; but after trying Crobars, I am definitely willing to give it a go in order to create a more balanced diet of meat and protein consumption.
Crobars can be ordered online from Gathr Foods here.
Cover images courtesy of Gathr Foods and Riverford Organic Farm.