Driven by the sustainability of a healthy food supply for all, we’re starting to see many new and ‘exciting’ cricket protein-based products in the marketplace.
Seem weird? Although entomophagy (eating bugs) is not yet very common in Canada, the US and Europe, over 1400 insect species are consumed by about 2 billion people in over 80 countries worldwide! This includes bugs like locusts, grasshoppers, mealworms, beetles, ants, wasps and caterpillars. Deep fried crickets are not uncommon in Mexico. In China, cockroaches are ground and used in the pharmaceutical industry. Some would argue that we already eat at least a few bugs inadvertently based on what is considered acceptable in the food supply in such foods as rice or ground coffee.
Edible insects don’t come from the dusty corners in the basement of an abandoned house or even from the yard on a summer night. Crickets for the food supply are raised in Canada in hygenic, inspected farms that take little space. The ‘farms’ are kind of like condominiums for crickets and are crowded, the way the crickets naturally like it. After about 8 weeks for the crickets to grow, they are washed in potable water then roasted at 225ᵒF and ground into a flour-like powder. Entomo Farms of Ontario is a supplier to Canadian food companies like CrickStart and Coast Protein that are making cricket-based protein powder, energy bars, crackers, cookies and more. (In the USA, there are currently a few more cricket companies such as Ex5, Six Foods, Big Cricket Farms and Crik Nutrition that sell their products online.)
Eco Benefits of Eating Crickets
Raising crickets uses 2000 times less land and water when compared to raising beef. Crickets grow 12x faster and produce 100x less greenhouse gas. This is even less than plant sources of protein like soy, brown rice and hemp. The United Nations considers insects an important food of the future. Even the frass (cricket poop) is being used as a certified organic plant fertilizer.
Crickets are a high protein, low carb, nutrient-dense food. Although it varies based on age, activity level and other factors, in a general sense for reference, adults need approximately 1-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight each day. In 2 tablespoons of cricket powder there are 14 g of protein and 84 calories.
Cricket protein provides double the protein of beef, 2x more calcium than milk, 7x more omega 3 than salmon, 2x iron of spinach, 3x the potassium of bananas, 50x more vitamin B12 than chicken. B12 is very important for brain and nerve health. All 9 essential amino acids can be found in cricket protein. Crickets are gluten-free. Even the exoskeleton, chitin, is considered valuable prebiotic fibre that’s good for gut health.
Crickets are thought to be the”gateway bug” as they are often the first insect a person tries. As most folks don’t want to eat them whole as pictured above, crickets are typically ground into flour used in snack bars, cookies, crackers and even foods like tortillas and meatballs. Canada’s largest grocer, Loblaws (Superstore), is now carrying cricket powder under it’s President’s Choice label. Some natural foods chains are selling bags of whole roasted, crunchy crickets said to be ‘chirps’, a salty, crunchy snack food thought to be like eating potato chips (for some).
I’m not suggesting you replace all current protein in your diet with crickets but if you’re a curious eater, give them a try. If you try the cricket flour in baking something like muffins, try subbing it in for about 1/4 of the flour the recipe calls for and still making up the balance with regular wheat flour or other flour you’re using.
Often described as earthy, nutty or ‘mushroomy’ tasting with a bit of a gritty or grainy texture, they’re nutritious and worth adding to a well-balanced and varied diet rich in vegetables and plant foods.
Never thought I’d be writing about edible bugs?!
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