A shipping container hidden just off Morrison Road has been raising tiny livestock since 2015. Every week, partners Wendy Lu McGill and Kyle Richard Conrad harvest crickets, mealworms and waxworms for human consumption. Their goal: make the world a more sustainable place by introducing insects as a viable food source. It’s something other cultures around the world have done for eons, and McGill says it’s answer to providing protein without the intense resource needs required to raise cows.
This time last year, we did a full rundown of her ecological calculus as she prepared for some events at local restaurants that featured her fare. This month, we checked back in to see how the bug market is looking as she locks down some of her first retail clientele.
While the team is still working on “Chirpy Jerky,” a Clif-bar-like product made of both chopped and powdered crickets, “Insectables,” packs of whole, flavored crickets and mealworms, have already hit the shelf at the Butterly Pavilion. They’ll be available at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on Nov. 1, and DMNS is also hosting a handful of events that feature bug grub in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, after dropping off some crickets to Linger, McGill made a visit to Butterfly Pavilion to get Insectables ready for the public. Her Micro Ranch is so small an operation that she actually boxes the product by hand in a back room.
Selling and preparing crickets on a commercial scale, even this small, is a little unusual for an American market, so McGill needed a little help moving the business to the next level. Butterfly Pavilion stepped up to co-brand the product, which now bears their logo.
“It gives a lot of legitimacy to the product,” McGill said, which is a good thing since her whole mission is to destigmatize insects as food.
Butterly Pavilion vice president Russ Pecoraro said they were happy to support her cause. They’ve always sold edible bugs in their gift shop, but this is a local initiative with sustainable practices, and that made for an easy decision. Plus, there’s an added benefit that the sales contribute to their institutional goals.
“The more that we can educate people about invertebrates that helps further our mission,” Pecoraro said. “Wendy’s done a really good job bringing one of the hidden benefits of invertebrates to the fore, and we are always wanting to support ventures that highlight our hidden heroes.”
While the product placement at Butterfly Pavilion and DMNS is the beginning of a new stage for Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, the business has been growing as a supplier.
“There’s kind of a weird niche of wholesale whole insect,” McGill said. “We are on track to double last year’s sales.”
Check out Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch’s website for details on upcoming events, including some at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on Oct. 13, 18 and 26.