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Taxpayers Group: Government Subsidies Exceed $420,000 for Cricket Food Manufacturers

Companies specializing in the production of cricket-based human food have received substantial subsidies from the federal government amounting to $420,023 since 2018, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF).

“Canadians are struggling as inflation pushes up grocery bills, but subsidizing snacks made out of bugs doesn’t sound like the right solution for taxpayers,” Franco Terrazzano, CTF federal director, said in a Sept. 11 news release.

CTF said it “gathered the list of cricket corporate welfare deals by reviewing the federal government’s proactive disclosure of grants and contributions.”

Twice, the federal government granted subsidies totalling $171,695 to Montreal-based company Näak Inc., as reported by CTF.

Näak was founded by two athletes, William Walcker and Minh-Anh Pham, who trained together at the World Triathlon Championships and “decided to radically change their diet by using sustainable proteins” including cricket powder.

The founders said they were introduced to the benefits of adding insects to their diet by a friend and said their mission is to “democratiz[e] insect consumption.” While their primary product is cricket energy bars, some of the money was also used for other products including “steaks, sausages and falafels” cooked with cricket powder.

Näak is one of five companies that received federal subsidies to use insects as human food, according to data obtained by CTF.

Flour ground from dried crickets and crickets in jars, for the first mass-delivered bread made of insects, are seen at the Finnish food company Fazer bakery in Helsinki, Finland, on Nov. 23, 2017. (Attila Cser/Reuters)
Flour ground from dried crickets and crickets in jars, for the first mass-delivered bread made of insects, are seen at the Finnish food company Fazer bakery in Helsinki, Finland, on Nov. 23, 2017. (Attila Cser/Reuters)

Another company, Entologik, received two subsidies totalling $88,979 and claims insects are the “protein of the future.” Its founder Marc-André Hébert wants to grow the company into “the largest producer and processor of edible insects in Canada.”

Casa Bonita Foods received a subsidy of $39,000 and said it planned to “manufacture high protein snacks made with cricket flour.” The company said the money would help it develop the techniques and processes used to manufacture high-protein snacks made with cricket flour and improve quality-control processes. The company also said it wanted to provide training in novel food development.

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Prairie Cricket Farms, meanwhile, received two subsidies worth $78,349, CTF said, and the owners, husband-and-wife team Ryan and Lesley Steppler, said their children “love snacking on roasted crickets and use cricket powder in their morning cereal.”

“Ryan heard from his dad that people in the world are eating crickets as a protein source, his naturally ambitious attitude led him to wonder if he could start a cricket farm in his basement. Lesley thought he was crazy but went along with it,” a company webpage says.

The couple soon moved operations to a large shed they call “the barn” and the 200 crickets first purchased in January 2016 “have turned into millions,” the business said.

Another company, Gaia Protein, received one subsidy of $42,000.

“The feds are having their ‘let them eat crickets’ moment,” Mr. Terrazzano said. “If someone can sell crickets as food, we wish them the best of luck, but taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for it.”

An additional $8.7 million in subsidies went to Aspire Food Group, which operates a cricket processing plant in London, Ontario. In total, the company received four separate handouts, said CTF. While the company is primarily geared toward pet food production, its owner said about 10 percent of its business operations use crickets for human food.

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