×

From Oysters and Eggs to Cricket Powder: Culinary Innovators are Looking for Alternative Proteins to Feed the World

May 1, 2024

Food Insights

As climate-change skyrockets and food scarcity increases, food systems and culinary innovation are deeply impacted. In 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which included food scientists and policy makers, released a global assessment naming alternative proteins as the transformative solution. The report stated that, “alongside transitions in the energy and transportation sectors, alternative proteins can halve global emissions by 2030.” 

Additionally, The Bezos Earth Fund pledged $60 million into revamping alternative proteins as part of its commitment to making food more sustainable. According to Andy Jarvis, director of Future of Food at the Bezos Earth Fund, “Alternative proteins are an imperative if we are to stay within planetary boundaries.” 

As food leaders, at Schaffer LA we’re super fascinated with what we’re going to be eating in the future. We want to offer our customers and fans dishes that are cutting edge and alternative proteins are the frontier. Below are some of our faves to incorporate in dishes! 

Under the Sea

Traditional proteins from the sea such as salmon, tuna, cod, shrimp and scallops are renowned for their high protein content per serving, but have you discovered the transformative power of other sea creatures? 

At Schaffer, we’ve been longtime fans of oysters. These briny gems of the sea are not only an excellent source of protein at nine grams per serving, but also loaded with nutrients, minerals, vitamins and healthy fats while remaining low-calorie. They are also more eco-friendly to produce than meat such as chicken, beef, pork, etc. We love cooking with oysters in a variety of recipes that incorporates pickling, smoking and brining on the half-shell with a squeeze of citrus, as well as grilling and frying these bivalves before stirring into a hearty soup. 

One of our favorite vendors is The Carlsbad Aquafarms, located in the clear waters of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad. Each year, they harvest and produce millions of oysters while still being dedicated to finding the best farming improvements to sustain the ecological health of the lagoon and local marine life. Thomas Grimm shared, “Carlsbad Aquafarm has been involved with coastal habitat restoration for years, including restoration projects from Newport Beach Back Bay to the South San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where our oysters are used to establish oyster reefs and eelgrass beds to protect shorelines from erosion and provide nurseries for a variety of fish.” 

FUN FACT: An oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water per day, enhancing aquatic life.

The category of sea protein and vegetables are incredibly broad. It includes everything from a nori wrapper to kelp and we have long used many varieties in our food work. For example, we love using spirulina — blue-green micro-algae — for the intense green color it brings to food as well as its mineral-y flavor. We serve our microalgae aioli with flat iron steak and asparagus as a play on hollandaise sauce. It brings a really interesting shellfish flavor. Almost a surf and turf variation. 

From kombu, dulse, agar agar and arame to hijiki, these delicacies have been a staple in Asian cuisine for centuries with every serving of this superfood packed with fiber, anti-oxidants, iodine, iron, protein, amino acids, folic acid, calcium and more. Like oysters, sea algae is the food of the future and is ecologically sustainable, keeping us within the planets boundaries so we can feed generations to come. 

Eggs

We are all raving about the golden yolk of eggs! Eggs are a quick, easy and delicious way to help meet your protein needs as two large eggs contain on average 13 grams of protein. Eggs have endless use in our recipes such as deviled eggs with a scoop of caviar or as a binding agent to thicken custards.

Due to increased feed efficiency, advancements in hen housing and manure management, egg farms use less water and energy on a daily basis releasing less polluting emissions into the environment, including 71 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions. As a food of the future, we recommend buying eggs organically or at a local farmers market, this way you can have peace of mind knowing your food is field to fork and you are consuming as ethically as possible! 

Beans and Legumes

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Beans and legumes are fiber-rich nutrient powerhouses and an excellent source of protein. One serving (1/2 cup cooked) of beans provides about seven grams of protein, the same as one ounce of meat.” They come in a variety of types such as dried beans, split peas and lentils, offering something for even the most picky of eaters. 

For all things beans, we simply adore the unmatched quality of Napa-based purveyor Rancho Gordo for their heirloom beans and legumes. With their soft skins and smooth texture, these California-grown beans rank higher than typical supermarket varieties. Rancho Gordo’s beans stand out due to their high quality, as they are sold fresher than most dried beans that can sit on the supermarket shelf for years. This may explains their current waitlist for customer favorites such as pinto and garbanzo. Furthermore, they’ve made it a priority to preserve culinary traditions, eco-friendly farming and re-introduced indigenous beans from the Americas to the U.S. marketplace.

Cricket Hummus served with pickled persimmon, lava salt, pistachio and brown butter.

Crickets

Insects are all the buzz. Yes, bugs! Insect protein is consumed by more than two billion people in many countries around the world on a daily basis. Not to mention, the sustainability practices to acquire insect powder is unmatched, being a completely organic process eliminating the need for excessive amounts of water and harmful gas emissions. 

We first encountered crickets as food over 20 years ago on the streets of Bogota, Columbia. There, crickets were fried, salted and sold in sandwich bags as street food. Eating them was a very foreign experience -- when you bit into them, the front was crunchy and salty and the back part was a little richer and chewy. But they were delicious and now we see these as a great cocktail snack. 

We were hooked and have incorporated these critters in some of our most famous (infamous?!) recipes: cricket hummus with pickled persimmon, lava salt, pistachio and brown butter. You can read more about our thoughts on these critters, HERE.

For more than 30 years, we have been committed to being on the forefront of culinary innovation - not only with how we cook and prepare our food but also where and how we get it. The ecosystem is one we vow to protect and expanding our knowledge of what is possible to feed us is only a start. Our hope is that with these recommendations you can learn that switching protein sources doesn’t have to be boring.There are a wide variety of products found above and below the sea to experiment all your culinary innovations with. Let us know which one you’ll be trying! 

Kathleen Schaffer and crew plating Cricket Hummus for a sold out dinner at The James Beard House in NYC March 2018.