Be Like John

John the Baptist that is. I don’t see much benefit in wearing the camel hair shirt, but his diet…

I was excited to receive a package from Biblical Protein. (Click the link for more information or check out their Twitter , Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn page. They sent whole locusts (hargol חרגול in Hebrew) and honey (for dipping?). They also sent energy bars made with locusts. And a new insect protein. Biblical Protein argues that COVID is not the first airborne plague– locusts 1 of the 10 plagues in the Passover story

As I child I knew of grasshoppers, and I THOUGHT I knew locusts were those bugs that came every seventeen years (properly known as perennial cicadas.) Locusts are actually grasshoppers that, like the cicadas, tend to swarm (think Biblical plague). Basically, lone hoppers are grasshoppers. Swarms are called locusts. If you want to read more click here.

The story of John the Baptist who lived on locusts and honey can be found in Matthew 3:4. Locusts, the only kosher insect, are listed in Leviticus 11:22. They are also mentioned in the Iliad, the Mahabharata,  and the Quran. Locusts were generally considered a problem– a plague. But this six year old company sees grasshoppers not as a plague, but as providence.

Dror Tamir (co-founder of Hargol FoodTech which produces Biblical Protein) is the public figure, promoting the benefits of eating locusts. Hargol farm is based near Nazareth and the Golan Heights near the Jordan River. They have plans to work with a a Jordanian business, which would seem to promote peaceful cooperation between formerly warring nations.

Hargol has posted a fascinating video tour of their facility. (You can see it at 15 minutes here.) The locusts are raised on wheat grass. It seemed odd to me that the locusts thrive on being crowded– “the more the better.” Grasshoppers, katydids and crickets are the only kosher insects.

I know insects are hard for many in North America to consider as a food source, but globally locusts are the most common insect eaten.

Insects raised for food produce only 1/4 as much greenhouse gas as the conventional meat industry. I think Hargol maintains the reduce greenhouse gases by 98.8%. I often find myself skeptical of claims made by the insect protein companies. But even if some of their claims are partly true, shouldn’t we look closer at their data. In addition to decreasing greenhouse gases, insect farming requires dramatically less water and land usage. Hargol maintains grasshoppers need one thousand times less water to produce 1 kg protein than say beef production. They say grasshoppers require one thousand five hundred times less land.

I have heard people asking how insect protein fits with vegetarian or vegan concerns. Dror, of Biblical Protein, argues that a vegetarian diet often requires much heavy use of insecticides. The insects are killed with poisons and left to die. Insect farming requires no pesticides. When the insects are ready to harvest, they are simply chilled. Then they are killed humanely and processed.

I am a beef farmer. I see a great difference in the amount of food and water required, to produce protein. I see a great difference in the amount of land required. And my cows generally give me one calf each year. Grasshoppers breed and produce all year long. There is very little processing required as grasshopper are already 17% protein. When I butcher my beef, I lose more than half of the cow’s mass. Hargol can use 100% of locust.

What are the health benefits of eating locusts? “They are low in carbs and practically fat-free. They also contain a wealth of minerals: iron, zinc, folic acid – an essential for pregnant women – as well as omega-3, omega-6 and vitamins. What’s hardly there? Cholesterol and saturated fat,”

There are many challenges facing Hargol. It is the first commercial operation to domesticate locusts. Light population density, humidity, and temperature must be maintained at very exact levels.

So, are you ready to try locusts? You can order locust products from their website listed at the beginning of this article. If you are going “hard core”– eating whole locusts, Dror recommends you remove the wings. If you want to ease your way into entomophagy (eating bugs) you might start with the locust powder. Insects are typically very mild flavored, so you often taste the spices or other ingredients. Hargol is creating locust and beef sausages, and honey locust gummies.

And again, John the Baptist ate honey and locusts. Be like John.

If you want to check out other companies that supply insect protein you might check out my entotreats page.