They're being called “the perfect protein,” “the future of food,” and even “the savior of the planet.” Is it some new genetically-modified beef? A rare botanical super-food just discovered in a South American rain forest?
No. It's crickets.
Crickets! The bugs that have provided the soundtracks to countless of your summer nights will soon be headliners on countless menus.
It may be a new gastronomical phenomenon in the U.S., but eating insects – “entomophagy” is the three-dollar word – is old hat elsewhere around the globe. A 2013 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reveals that around 2 billion people worldwide eat bugs as part of a traditional diet. Entomophagy is a particularly common practice in China, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and some developing regions of Central and South America.
But crickets? Why are we even having this conversation?
As it turns out, crickets are rich in protein. A study out of Iowa State University shows they are comparable to lean meat in this category, without all of the factory-farmed livestock baggage of antibiotics, hormones, and grain feed. And the bugs totally trump lean meat when it comes to iron, delivering nearly three times the amount of that mineral.
Eating crickets can also battle obesity (and not for the reasons you think). Beef is much higher in fat (nearly four times as much) and carbs than crickets.
Then there's that whole “saving the world” business. The World Bank is estimating that the global population is expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050. That means we need to produce around 50 percent more food in order to feed an extra 2 billion people.
Enter the crickets. Meat on the hoof requires 12 times more feed than the bugs. Even sheep (4 times) and chickens (twice as much) are absolute gluttons when compared to Jiminy and his friends. And don't even get started on greenhouse gases produced and grazing land glommed.
...and if crickets aren't your cup of tea, may we interest you in some beetles? They are the most commonly eaten insect worldwide, followed by caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, and locusts. In fact, more than 1,900 insect species are considered edible. If none of those set your mouth to watering, you're in good company: a study published in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed found that 72 percent of Americans are unwilling to even consider eating insects.
But for those of you who want to take the plunge, you don't have to eat them raw like some crazed Renfield. Crickets packaged in powdered form, available in flavors such as Pervuvian Chocolate and Chocolate Peanut Butter, has become a cottage industry.