5 Reasons Eating Crickets Isn’t As Disgusting As It Sounds
Entomophagy is the term used for humans who eat insects as a food source, in this article we explore the increasing trend of using crickets as a natural protein and the nutritional and environmental benefits of introducing insects into our everyday diets.
With over 2 billion people worldwide regularly consuming insects, is it time for all of us to get over our initial disgust at eating bugs and give it a try?
The notion of eating insects is enough to turn your stomach……on the other hand if you really think about where meat comes from and how it is produced before it gets to our plates that is equally stomach churning.
So if we can look past that; what are the health benefits of eating insects? In particularly Crickets.
Well, they are considered to be extremely nutritious, and are rich in protein, iron, calcium and healthy fats as well as being low in carbohydrates. Currently, beetles are the most commonly consumed insect and considered to be the richest in protein. Nevertheless, crickets also boast a high nutrient profile and provide an excellent source of lean protein, vitamins and minerals.
A single Cricket consists of about 65% protein, and it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids as well as six fatty acids. In addition to protein, they contain calcium, vitamins and omega 3 and are much lower in fat than your average cut of meat.
So adding Crickets to our diets could be a useful way to help fight obesity and help eliminate the health problems related to an increasingly overweight population.
Crickets can be consumed in a variety of ways; for those who are a bit more adventurous they can be boiled, roasted or fried and eaten whole as a crispy snack… or chucked in a stir fry, rice or barbecue recipe.
However, they are increasingly being used as a flour.
The Flour is formed by roasting the crickets and grinding their crispy bodies into a powder. This can then be added to just about any food, and just a few tablespoons of cricket flour can provide nutritional benefits to any meal.
So what does it taste like?
Mixed into an energy bar…. unless you were aware, you would not know you were eating a ground-up insect as it just blends in with the other ingredients.
But if you mixed in large amounts to other dishes it would add an earthy, nutty flavour to your food. Eaten whole they taste similar to a nutty, crunchy snack and if you closed your eyes and didn’t know what you were eating you would think it was a variety of nut!
Fancy a try?
If you do fancy adding crickets to your diet, it is not a good idea to just go outside in your garden and catch them yourselves. As although they are safe to eat you, wouldn’t know what they have been feeding on or whether they have been exposed to pesticides. It is always advisable to purchase crickets from a reputable source; and with entomophagy becoming more widespread, insect farms are popping up all over the world.
It is worth knowing that crickets that are sold for human consumption are subject to regulations concerning food production and cleanliness and most Cricket farms are small independent startups rather than large farms.
Crickets can also be suitable for those on Gluten-free diets as long as they are also fed gluten-free food.
Currently, the most popular place for cricket farming is Thailand, and it has been progressing there since 1998 and contributes significantly to the livelihood and nutrition of the Taiwanese population.
Apart from their nutritional value, crickets are also plentiful and environmentally sustainable.
To farm and harvest crickets is far cheaper and more efficient compared to livestock, grains or vegetables. Transport costs are minimal and to compare; if you feed cattle a hundred pounds of food, they will produce ten pounds of beef. However, the same amount of food given to crickets will produce four times that! Meaning that if the Western World were to embrace entomophagy, then insects could help contribute to a more sustainable food source for the future?
To put it into context using insects as our primary protein source instead of livestock would mean using much less water, no hormones, antibiotics or pesticides, and with crickets emitting 80 times less C02 than cattle it would also reduce the impact on Global warming. It seems like a win-win solution……doesn’t it?
So now to the question of ethics? Would a vegetarian or pescetarian eat an insect? Is there a difference between a warm-blooded animal and an insect?
Because Scientists haven’t positively established whether insects can feel pain, should insect welfare be taken into consideration when farmed for entomophagy and should their well-being be respected in the same way as any other living creature?
Many entomophagy suppliers are keen to point out the importance of humane insect treatment and maintain high standards of care for insects destined for human consumption. It is important they have sufficient space and nutrition to prevent overcrowding and cannibalism.
The conventional way of harvesting crickets is by freezing them, before they are sterilised and then dry roasted or freeze-dried and either used whole or milled into flour.
The question is if there is uncertainty about whether insects can suffer how do we know if this is a humane way to kill crickets? And if insects are going to become a big part of the food chain in the future does more research needs to be done into whether insects have emotional responses and ultimately feel pain, if so then a more humane killing method would have to be established.
Until this can be conclusively proved then, vegans, vegetarians and even possibly pescetarians will have a problem adding crickets or any other insect to their diets as a protein source, but for meat eaters, it may be the way forward to provide an alternative protein to meat and reduce the pressure on the environment.
To learn more and try out a cricket bar for yourself, check out SENS.