Memphis Meats wants to fundamentally change your Thanksgiving dinner. You'll still have a turkey, of course, but if the Bay Area startup has its way, it will be one that's grown in a lab.

The company's so-called clean meat technology won't be ready to produce a whole bird for a while yet. But other clever entrepreneurs are coming up with products, available now, that take advantage of another alternative source of protein: insects.

Humans have been engaging in entomophagy, or the practice of eating insects, for centuries. Two companies are dominating its latest resurgence: Six Foods, which sells tortilla-type chips called Chirps made out of flour from crickets, and ExoProtein, which peddles cricket-based protein bars.

The founders of these companies say that insects contain the same nutritional value as mammal meat, and then some. Plus, they add, they're way more environmentally friendly. According to ExoProtein co-founder Gabi Lewis, 65 percent of a cricket is protein (the same proportion as the edible parts of a cow), but farming insects produces one one-hundredth of the greenhouse gas that farming cattle does for the same yield of protein. Even soybean farming to make alternative protein products is a bigger pollutant than harvesting crickets, adds Meryl Natow, co-founder of Six Foods. Insects also contain more iron than spinach and beef, and more calcium than milk, says Lewis.

Neither of these companies sells crickets in a form that will serve an an adequate alternative to your Thanksgiving turkey just yet. They're starting with much smaller, portable foods, like chips, protein bars, and cookies. But for the adventurous, cricket flour comes in powder form and can easily be added to recipes at home. With all the buzz around this easy and highly efficient form of protein, we're betting that the eating bugs movement won't be hopping away anytime soon.

Published on: Nov 23, 2016