Saturday, 1 April 2017

Crickets made of mustard

Edible insects at Loblaws on 30 March 2017
Loblaws has been trying to peddle edible insects for some time now. I was looking at them a few days ago, when a woman approached me and told me she couldn't believe they were doing this because it is so gross.

I disagreed with her. People in Africa, for example, have been eating insects since times immemorial. She replied that we are not in Africa. She was right. We are not. But it does indicate that eating insects is not gross, it is just not part of our culture.

Insects as a protein source are often promoted as environmentally friendly, certainly a lot friendlier than other animal protein sources common in Western culture. While there are certain preliminary thoughts that point in this direction, most sources seem to agree that we are a long way off from large-scale use of insects as a food source for humans.

Edible insects are also promoted as healthful. I have not researched this issue, but quick searches on Pubmed for ["edible insects" AND "benefits"] and ["entomophagy" AND "benefits"] found 20 and 10 articles respectively, some containing speculation, but no useful research for consumers.

However, that was not why I was interested, nor was it why I was shocked. 

I was intrigued by the price. Edible insects are often said to be cheap. Google "cheap protein" and "insects" for a simple sampling. However, that is not what I saw at Loblaws.

In Loblaws tradition, many of the products on offer had no indication of price. This tends to mean they are overpriced. The few prices that were indicated, showed this guess might be correct. 

The insect-containing suckers and brittle certainly were pricey at 4.99 CAD + tax for what is essentially 35 grams of sugar with the odd insect sprinkled in. Since candy is not food but rather a luxury item nobody needs to stay alive, I wouldn't hold this against them, even if I am not likely to ever try it.

Honey mustard crickets
Bag of 56 grams, for 16.99 CAD + tax
Loblaws on 30 March 2017
The priciest item was a bag containing 56 grams of honey mustard crickets for 16.99 CAD + tax, a whopping 303.39 CAD + tax for one kilogram. In my book, this does not qualify as cheap, since it is about 5 to 6 times as expensive as smoked salmon, and that is usually considered a luxury food.

Since edible insects are a novelty item for now, some money-grabbing is to be expected, so even though the price certainly raised my eyebrows, it wasn't my main point of interest.

What really bothered me, was the French translation of the English text. Not only was it incomplete, it was also of bad quality. Modern quality management is mostly about offering people as little service as possible while grabbing as much of their money as possible, but when this Ferengi-style greed is applied to luxury items it becomes even more shocking than usual.

This is a very small translation. Is it really too much to ask for a proper one? 

"grillons de moutarde et miel" is the equivalent of "crickets made of mustard and honey". 

"ojgnongranulé" is probably the result of bad DTP, not language, but it is still an error.

I am sure that Francophones are intelligent enough to understand what is meant and will probably mentally correct the mistakes without giving them a second thought, but that is not the point. The point is that they shouldn't have to mentally correct the translation at all. They are (potential) customers, they deserve the same service as other customers, unless they are given a discount to compensate for bad quality.

Nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, but these are mistakes that can easily be avoided by paying a few dollars to someone who knows what he/she is doing. Surely, at these prices, this should not be a major problem?

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