For Rose Wang, the moment of truth came when a friend dared her to eat a fried scorpion in Beijing. As a Nashville city girl, Harvard student, and self proclaimed “overachiever,” Wang wasn’t one to back down from a dare, although she admits to the audience at SOCAP15 that her first response was fear.
“I closed my eyes and put it in my mouth, and my first thought was: this tastes like shrimp,” she says. “That’s really interesting, because actually insects and crustaceans are very closely related.”
Insects: Next Level Sustainable Protein
A week later, Rose read a UN FAO report on insects being one of the most sustainable protein sources available. Around two billion people in the world eat insects as a regular part of their diet, and the benefits go beyond nutrition.
“It takes two thousand gallons of water to make a pound of beef but only one gallon of water to make a pound of crickets,” explains Rose. Crickets, she says, have twice the protein and half the fat of beef for the same amount of meat, without the waste and greenhouse gas emissions you find in the livestock industry.
“It’s a complete animal protein, so basically all of this is to say that the world would be a better place if we all ate insects,” she laughs. “We thought we could change food’s impact on climate change, but it was an idea that people were scared of.”
Launching Six Foods
Rose joined forces with her roommate, Laura D’Asaro, and another Harvard student, Meryl Natow, to launch Six Foods. (“Because six legs are better than four!”) Over time, they became more and more comfortable with the idea of eating insects, experimenting with different insects and modes of preparation.
They perfected their recipes and honed their pitch, and when they got in front of an investor he said it was the worst idea he had ever heard.
An advisor told them to keep going.
“Maybe you are crazy,” he told them. “But there are a lot of other crazy people out there, so go find them and ask them what they think.”
They ended up launching a Kickstarter for Chirps–chips made from cricket flour–and the response was overwhelming. Together, they raised $70,000 in 30 days, becoming one of the most funded food Kickstarters ever. Last year Rose and Laura were named Echoing Green Climate Fellows and this year they landed on the 30 under 30 list in Forbes.
“Every single day we get to feed people bugs, and, you know, I get to see their face go from being really scared to them being really curious, and then the spark of–‘Oh my god!, I just completely blew my own mind’–come over their face. It’s the most amazing feeling because just for that second we realize that anything, even eating bugs, is possible.”
For more on the story of Six Foods and Chirps, watch Rose Wang’s SOCAPtv session, How to Face Fears and Eat What Bugs You.