A new protein source has been making headlines recently… no, it’s not vegan, dairy-based, or any other protein source you’re traditionally used to seeing. It’s crickets. Yes, those tiny little insects.
I’m going to take you through cricket protein and we’ll look at why there is so much hype around it as of recently.
History of eating insects
Insects have been consumed as food for thousands of years, essentially since men have been around. Ancient scholars, like Pliny from the Roman Empire, and Aristotle, one of the most renowned Greek philosophers, used to write about eating larvae. Pliny went as far as to suggest it was a delicacy enjoyed by aristocrats with wine. The trend of eating insects throughout time continues on with the Old Testament telling the story of St. John the Baptist eating locusts to survive. It spans to the Americas too, where the Pony Express observed Native Americans eating crickets.1
Insects are consumed across Asia, Africa, and South and Central America, in places like Mexico, Brazil, Japan, China, and Ghana in a range of different dishes. Many have probably heard of Agave Tequila for instance, which has a worm in it. In Brazil, one might find ants dipped in chocolate, where as in Japan one could find Hachinoko, a larvae dish mixed with sauces and rice. 1
Nutritional benefits of cricket protein
Cricket protein is a highly nutritious food to consume and packed with nutritionals that meat, dairy, and fish don’t have standing alone. Here’s a fun fact, it has over twice as much protein as beef, chicken, and steak! For those that love dairy as a protein staple, crickets have 5 times more protein than an egg. Beef is typically 26-27% protein, whereas crickets are up to 65% protein per bug.
Crickets are also packed with vitamins, minerals, fats, BCAA’s, and fiber. 100 grams of cricket protein may contain up to 9 grams of omegas, 58 grams of protein, and three times as much iron as spinach does. One serving should cover 80% of your vitamin b12. 2 3
These powerful insects are also filled with numerous minerals like zinc, copper, iodine, and manganese which aids hair, skin, bones, and sex drive.
This strong nutritional source is equally good for your gut. Crickets are filled with a prebiotic fibre called chitin which is said to aid digestion, particularly in people with irritable bowel syndrome. 4 5
Environmental and societal benefits of eating crickets
Just as many other food products are, crickets can be produced in an organic and Non-GMO fashion and without any pesticides.
Perhaps the most convincing reason to consume more crickets, is their powerful effects on the environment. In comparison to beef, crickets consume 12x less food, 16x less land, 1700x less water, and emit 2850x less greenhouse gases.
Still nearly 800 million people suffer from mass hunger, despite the large amount of resources going into agriculture. Less than ¼ of the world’s consumption of calories are meat and dairy, yet they utilize nearly ⅘ of the world’s farmland. It’s equally important to take into account that ⅙ of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions derive from livestock and even more relevant in today’s covid times, are responsible for numerous pandemic causing viruses.6
Much of the food used for livestock could feed the nearly 800 million people suffering in starvation. It’s saddening that while our livestock are being grown and pumped full of food, many people suffer in starvation. Plant-based alternatives and insects could easily feed much of the global population if resources were allocated to those methods, instead of animal agriculture.
It is undeniable that our food consumption methods at the moment are unsustainable – from a resource, climate change, and humanitarian perspective. Using crickets as food is a strong alternative to these issues.
Although many find the thought repulsive, insect protein is one of the most sustainable and nutritious food sources our planet has to offer. The nutritionals are far better than other meat and dairy based protein sources. The only protein source that can compete would be plant-based sources, but even in that instance, it would require combining certain sources together. It’s truly unique to have that many omegas, protein, and other mineral benefits in one food source.
Given the climate change crises, humans require shifting off a primarily animal based diet. Insects are a great alternative to this that don’t require many resources (e.g. water, land, and feed). Keeping in mind that many of these resources, particularly the food, could be going to humans in need of food and starving – solving three major global problems – health, climate change, and global starvation.
Our recommendation? Just try it. Try a Japanese or Brazilian insect dish. Better yet try some cricket bars you can find online. Have an open mind and give it a shot!