Bugging Out

What has six legs, a quartet of wings and is set to make its debut on your dinner plate? Prepare yourself for a swarm of products featuring cricket protein.
By Elke S. Nelson, Ph.D, CFL-1,

It’s a matter of simple mathematics. As the human population grows, so must sustainable food options. As the number of mouths that need to be fed and the environmental and financial fallout of what it takes to feed them continue to mount, investigating alternative protein sources becomes not only viable but also almost mandatory. And it doesn’t get more alternative than bugs.

Of course, that’s not particularly true for populations beyond our shores. While chowing down on bugs may not be the current norm in the West, a majority of other cultures around the world enjoy insects on the daily. And why not? They’re a seemingly endlessly renewable food source that’s full of lean protein, among other nutrients. Back in America, one bug in particular is being touted as the protein source of the future — the cricket.

Cricket protein is a complete protein source, containing all essential amino acids; its amino-acid profile is comparable to other proteins, like beef, chicken and pork. Based on percentages, crickets actually provide twice the amount of protein as does beef (and even more than that when compared to chicken, salmon and eggs). And protein is not the only nutrient the noisy creatures boast. Crickets are high in calcium and offer more than two times more iron than spinach and as much vitamin B12 as salmon.

Raising them is also much, much kinder to the environment than your average livestock. To yield the same amount of protein, crickets require a measly 17 percent of the food and less than 1 percent of the water and land resources as livestock and produce just 1 percent the amount of greenhouse gases. It’s estimated that 100 pounds of feed could provide 5 pounds of edible beef protein, 15 pounds of edible pork protein, 30 pounds of edible chicken protein, but 60 pounds of edible cricket protein. Crickets also require fewer natural resources than crops like soy, corn and rice. You do the math.

Convinced? Whether you’re a sustainability junkie, just want a taste of the cricket craze for yourself or are an adventurous eater looking to partake in a cultural experience, these products offer a good starting place.

Chapul Cricket Energy Bar

In 2012, Chapul became the first company in the United States to make and use cricket flour in a consumer product. Salt Lake City local Patrick Crowley founded Chapul — an Aztec word that means “cricket” or “grasshopper” (the Aztecs were avid insect eaters; their practice of sun-drying insects, milling them into a flour and then baking a protein-dense bread out of them was part of the company’s inspiration) — after becoming interested in insect protein as a solution to freshwater overconsumption by the agricultural industry. Staying true to its mission, the company invests 1 percent of all profits in water conservation in the regions that inspire its bars.

Chapul offers four non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free bar varieties. While the macronutrients and ingredients vary widely among flavors, you’re guaranteed at least 5 grams of high-quality cricket protein per bar. chapul.com

Exo Cricket Flour Protein Bars

With the tag lines “Crickets are the new kale” and “Crickets are the gateway bug,” Exo has piqued a lot of interest since its beginnings in January 2013, when two Brown University students ordered 2,000 live crickets and started experimenting. After graduating, Exo founders Gabi Lewis and Greg Sewitz moved to New York City, where they each sacrificed other career opportunities to fulfill their passion for insect protein and its role in the future of food. Exo offers bars in four comfort-food flavors: apple cinnamon, blueberry vanilla, cocoa nut, and peanut butter and jelly. Each bar provides 10 grams of protein and 40 crickets (an estimated five per bite), and it is also free of gluten, grain, soy, dairy and refined sugars. exoprotein.com

Cricket Flours Protein Powder

Founded in 2014 by Charles Wilson and Omar Ellis, Cricket Flours’ mission is to shift away from animal sources of protein powder and look to a high-quality, more sustainable option — crickets. Among Wilson’s criteria for this alternative source of protein and nutrition: It had to be gluten-free and free of unnecessary processing and additives. The resulting cricket product is sourced in North America and made using premium fine-grain milling processes that increase shelf life, nutrition and consistency. Add Cricket Flours to your favorite recipe to provide a natural boost of protein (7 grams per 15-gram serving), calcium, iron, fatty acids, and vitamins B12 and B6. cricketflours.com

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