Last month, Portland startup Poda Foods won the inaugural PitchFestNW, sponsored by WW, with an unlikely idea for a company: bugs as food. Poda raises and harvests organic crickets in Portland to sell, as a powder, to three food production companies making cricket-based protein bars and dog treats. WW visited with Kenny Cloft, chief operating officer of the startup, in his Reed neighborhood apartment—where he was preparing a batch of crickets for samples at a cannabis event.
1. Raise the crickets.
Tropical house crickets lay their eggs in soil, which is kept at a humid 80 degrees. The hatched crickets are given GMO-free feed made for baby chickens. (Cloft hopes to eventually switch to food scraps as a more sustainable approach.) "Around the fifth week, the males begin to chirp," Cloft says.
2. Cook the crickets.
Poda Foods harvests the crickets by freezing them to death. They drop into hibernation and die peacefully. Cloft then roasts them in the oven for an hour at 200 degrees: "a low temperature so that the internal oil doesn't scald or burn."
3. Prepare the crickets.
An industrial-sized coffee grinder is all that's needed to turn roasted crickets into powder. Once the insects are dehydrated, they have a 75 percent protein content, and the flour form disguises the off-putting fact that you're eating a bug. "As a powder, the insect becomes innocuous," Cloft says. When leaving the crickets whole, Cloft salts them lightly.
4. Taste the crickets.
They're not entirely unpleasant. They have a yeasty, malty taste that recalls the scent inside a brewery. Pro tip: When eating a cricket that hasn't been ground into a protein bar, break off the antennae and ovipositor as well as long limbs of the cricket's body that are difficult to chew.