Over the past few years, we’ve watched the market for insect-based foods grow at an incredible rate in the U.S. Before these companies cropped up, very few Americans had access to commercial insect foods—simply put, no one wanted them and no one was making them. They were taboo and deemed ‘icky.’ But, the tide has steadily been shifting. As new companies take advantage of marketing towards the enduring Paleo wave, it is becoming increasingly more popular, dare we say ‘hip,’ to eat insects.
And this is a great thing. Crickets, for instance, are a significantly more sustainable source of protein than beef, chicken, pork or sheep. Compared to cattle, crickets need six times less feed to produce the same amount of protein. They even need two times less than chickens. Think it’s not the same as eating meat? The nutritional value of insect protein does not differ from the nutritional values of other meat sources. Protein levels in insects can actually oftentimes be higher. Being so, this makes crickets an excellent food for athletes.
The FAO estimates that, by 2050, the world will contain a population of 9 billion people. In the U.S., the way we consume protein is entirely unsustainable. It is expensive, low-yield, water consuming and produces an incredible amount of greenhouse gases. In contrast, cricket farming takes relatively little space, water and feed. Crickets also propagate at a much faster rate than other animal protein sources, making them an affordable, sustainable and abundant protein source.
Don’t worry. The rise of insect-based proteins doesn’t mean you have to start picking bits of crunchy exoskeleton out of your teeth. Companies are taking creative measures to make insects more palatable to our Western tastes. Crickets, for example, don’t evoke such icky connotations in most of our minds and have a mild, nutty flavor. It is for these reasons that most companies are marketing the humble cricket to their consumers as a gateway bug.
Many companies roast sustainably farmed crickets and grind them into a flour, which can be added to a variety of products. You can purchase the flour on its own, in a tasty gluten-free blend from Bitty Foods, or you can try one of these innovative cricket flour goodies:
-Six Foods creates a variety of Chirps cricket chips made with corn, beans, chia seeds and cricket flour.
-Hopper creates a paleo-friendly cricket flour granola.
-Bugsolutely creates cricket flour pasta.
-Edible Inc. in Korea is even marketing mealworm cookies and silkworm biscotti, which might not catch on so quickly in the U.S. While Americans seem to be opening up to the cricket, other edible insects still have a long way to go. And let’s be honest, mealworms especially are going to need some killer PR.