It’s been two years since the United Nations urged the world to eat more bugs. They’re plentiful, nutritious, and potentially less destructive to cultivate than livestock. Millions of people around the world already eat insects as part of a healthy diet—now if only Westerners could overcome their learned disgust and get on board. Maybe loading them into junk food is the key?
This summer, the bug-eating cause will get help from an unlikely quarter: an American burger joint. Wayback Burgers, a Connecticut-based fast-casual chain, is launching an Oreo mud pie milkshake made with cricket protein. The insects are ground up and flavored with chocolate before they’re added to the mix, so you don’t have to see the legs, shells, or beady little eyes that might activate your gag reflex. A regular 22-ounce cricket milkshake packs 20 grams of protein—about the same as a scoop of whey powder, and only slightly grosser.
The concept started as an April Fool’s Day joke, according to a Wayback Burgers press release. When customer response turned out to be “incredibly positive,” the company decided to turn that prank into a reality, aiming to cash in on the current vogue for fortified, nutrient-rich liquid meals (think juices, protein shakes, Soylent). Meanwhile, there are already a number of start-ups producing cricket-based foods such as cookies and energy bars, all of them disguising the bugs’ segmented bits in forms that Americans recognize. At the intersection of these trends—the utilitarian and the adventurous—is the young foodie, into both locally-sourced, sustainable produce and greasy-spoon Americana.
Is the cricket milkshake a gimmick? Definitely. But it’s also the most mainstream inroads yet for entomophagy in America.