As a young girl, Yesenia Gallardo visited her family in Oaxaca, Mexico, where grasshoppers are standard menu items. As an environmental management major at Yale, Gallardo met Kenny Cloft; in 2015, the pair launched Poda Foods in Molalla, turning a mutual love of eating crickets into an edible powder sold to food and protein-bar manufacturers. After landing a hefty prize from the start-up awards PitchFestNW, Poda moved to a brand-new Milwaukie farm this summer.
Why cricket powder? Crickets are sustainable, because they are so efficient. They are exothermic, so they don’t require much energy to regulate their body temperature and other processes. In addition, they have many more nutrients and vitamins than salmon, chicken, and whey—without the allergens for people who are paleo or gluten free or allergic to dairy or soy. There is already a cricket-farming industry, but it’s mostly for pets.
How do you, uh, source your crickets? Crickets take six weeks to raise. We bring in fresh cricket eggs from our breeder and then raise those and continue to breed them. Every female cricket will lay 10 to 15 eggs. It does take some time for the initial batch to get them to their full, harvestable size. Then we freeze them so they stop jumping around, and we roast them and grind them. We are working on a new process to extract some oils from the crickets and then process the leftovers.
Are they tasty? There isn’t a lot of flavor that you would detect. That being said, I actually think that crickets taste good—I like using them in stir-fry or in a salad. With a [protein] bar, I think you mask a lot of the flavor so you can’t really taste it.
Does the sound of two million crickets ever annoy you? The sound is actually really pleasant. They only chirp when they are reproductive, and that is in the last few weeks of their lives. I actually had to get used to handling them. I would always jump when they jumped, but at this point I am very comfortable with them. They are just very chill little critters.