A Palmer startup company is whipping up high-protein cookies with an insect ingredient: darkling beetles.

Luke Wright got the idea while traveling around the Netherlands. He wanted to find a more sustainable protein and started raising crickets and beetles.

The beetles proved to be more efficient because they take up less land and require less hands-on work to feed and water. The bugs are not only locally grown, but eat locally-grown potatoes from Vanderweel Farms.

The beetles are frozen then cleaned before they’re processed.

“Then we roast them and then we grind them up into a powder. So it turns into a flour,” Wright explained.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates about two billion people already make insects a regular part of their diet.

Wright founded Manna Foods to bring the cookies to a mass audience in Alaska. They handed out free samples at Colony Days in Palmer a couple of weeks ago and Wright said most of the feedback was positive.

“Western society is really averse to eating insects so we figured the best way to get that into people’s diets was dessert food because who doesn’t want to eat a brownie,” Wright said.

Manna Foods has a Kickstarter they hope will raise $10,000 to give their bug business a boost. Some of the money will be used to get a commercial kitchen to produce the cookies on a larger scale.

Co-founder Kyle Fox said they also wanted to make a high-protein snack that actually tasted good. The mint chocolate desserts are also soy-free, dairy-free and gluten-free.

“It doesn’t have to be millions and millions of dollars. It needs to be a good idea that’s locally funded and it can go upwards,” said Fox.

There are about 500 beetles in each cookie. He said the company is currently raising about 400,000 of the insects.

Wright said the bug business venture is an effort to save the planet one cookie at a time

“We’re all Alaskans by blood and most of our activities are spent in the outdoors. If you fly pretty much anywhere else in the world you’ll see most of land is taken up for farming. So preserving wilderness is really important to us,” he said.

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