Recently a Bay Area based start up reached out to Lchaim inquiring about entering the Kosher market with their Cricket powered power bar. I have to admit that i prefer my insects, cute, digital and voiced by Eddy Murphy as part of some Disney Classic. However Eddie Murphy doesn’t have a plan for feeding 9 Billion by 2050, and companies like Exo (New York) , Bitty Foods ( Bay Area) , Steak Tzar Tzar (Israel) and Flying Spark (Israel) do. Insects like Fruit Flies, Crickets, Locusts have a tremendous advantage than standard protein sources like cows, chicken and fish. They are faster to grow, are a complete protein and more affordable. The question is are they Kosher?
While on a recent trip to Israel, i reached out to the world’s expert on the topic, Rabbi Dr Ari Zivotofsky. In addition to heading Bar Ilan University’s Brain Science Lab, he hosts yearly Mesora (Tradition) Dinners which feature unique items like water buffalo, pheasant, and fried locusts. Professor Zivotofsky was gracious enough to host me in his home and share his wisdom. I wanted to relay some of my personal take aways from the conversation
- The Old Testament lists four types of insects that are considered Kosher, and the Talmud elaborates that those four core types extend out to over 800.
- To identify those specific types of Insects we need to have a Mesorah (Tradition) which identifies those kosher species. Unfortnately, the Mesorah has been essentially lost to most of world jewry due to their migrations and expulsions. Only the Yemenite and Moroccan community still retain their tradition which identify the Dessert Locust as a Kosher species.
- Major American Kosher certification like the OU, OK, and Star K would not certify Dessert Locusts because being primarily Ashkenazi do not share this Mesorah. Their grandparents for 1500 years have not eaten grasshoppers. Additionally since the public’s perception is that Locusts are not Kosher, there would be tremendous criticism and accusations by the “average ” kosher consumer of Kosher agencies selling out and certifying a non kosher product.
- To bring the Dessert Locust into the mainstream we should work with smaller Sephardi certifications who would accept a Yemenite tradition and slowly bring the product back into the mainstream.
- Currently Steak Tzar Tzar is the only Israel based company that is growing the Dessert Locusts for commercial use. We would want to encourage them to begin producing this ingredient under Kosher certification and for it to be sold to companies like Exo, and Bitty Foods which would be certified by a local sephardi certification agency
I plan to meet with Steak Tzar Tzar in the coming two month and write a follow up blog post and potential recipes.