Oysters weren’t gross enough so I’ve moved onto crickets.
I recently visited a butterfly conservatory and gee did it make me hungry. Luckily, I was able to find crickets in the gift shop. As unappealing as they might seem initially, there are a few perks. The Entomofarms website does a great job elucidating some of these benefits, but I’ll go through some of the ones I find most significant. The protein is pretty staggering.
The package pictured on the right showed 6g of protein per 10g serving on the nutrition label. With ~60% protein, it’s hard to find a more concentrated source of protein without resorting to supplements of some sort. The essential amino acid ratios are proximate to most meats, along with fat, fibre, calcium and iron. There is significantly more B12 (Cobalamin) than is present in most meats, milk, eggs, etc. The omega 6:3 ratio is closer to ideal than most foods as well. Apparently an ideal ratio is 4:1 and the nutrition guide they provide on the website shows crickets providing a 3:1 ratio. I’m not a nutritionist, nor have I delved deep into research on ideal intake ratios for these, but I don’t see a reason to be overly skeptical of the information Entomofarms provides.
If you in fact clicked the link and went to their website, you may have also come across some discussion of sustainability. In an attempt to keep this fluent and not research intensive, I’m going to trust that their research is at least somewhat accurate. I recognize that I’m opening myself up to criticism here. I encourage you to be skeptical of my claims and research for yourself before buying products or falling for the hype. With that in mind, their estimate is that “crickets are 20x more efficient to raise for protein than cattle”. Cattle require more water, more arable land, more feed, and more time. Regardless of the accuracy of their estimates, it seems pretty evident that there’s a significant benefit in terms of sustainability. I’ve only read a few pages of it so far, but here’s a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that seems pretty detailed on the subject of edible insects.
When analyzing sustainability it’s crucial to consider other factors involved the process of getting the product to the consumer. Shipping and package manufacture are of utmost importance. To use an extreme hypothetical, if the only edible insects available to us had to be imported from Antarctica, they would not be a sustainable alternative source of protein. Similarly, if the packaging had to be laminated with some sort of rare-earth metal, they would not be sustainable. Unfortunately, most inefficiencies in these areas are due to an underdeveloped market. My small bag of crickets (56g) cost $15.00 CAD. I could probably get a kilogram of various meats for a similar price. Companies like Entomopharms are not moving into a large existing market and competing, they’re essentially creating a new market, and while that has more possibility for profit, it also has the risk of failing to even create a target market.
I think once people move past what is commonly called the “yuck factor,” edible insects will perform well as a protein alternative. I and a couple friends thought the taste and texture were good, yet I don’t see whole crickets being consumed regularly in the near future. But as Megan Miller posits here; insects “become a lot more manageable when they’re in [flour] format”.
I first heard about SENS bars from this blog and it intrigued me enough to order some for myself. While I personally liked the whole roasted crickets, I can see more willingness to try products with less visible antennae and legs. I’ve only had a few so far, but I liked the taste of SENS bars, not noticing much difference from standard energy or protein bars I’ve tried in the past. Their website hosts similar information to that found on Entomofarms. I’m not here to do product reviews but I enjoyed both the whole roasted crickets and SENS bars and would recommend either one to someone looking to try entomophagy.
Some of you might wonder how I reconcile eating insects with a vegetarian diet (ostrovegetarian because of oysters?). If you read my post on oysters and other bivalves you might have some idea of where my argument might lead. Insects have nociception responses (recoil from harm or potential harm) to stimuli, yet they have no way of processing pain or suffering in the way we understand it. The question of whether or not insects feel pain is a complex one with no definitive answer; but this blog does a great exploration of this very question. As does this one. The website for SENS bars also mentions that diapause is induced before the crickets are harvested, further complicating the dilemma. For now, I think the combination of sustainability, nutrition, and the low likelihood of suffering are enough to motivate me to munch on these tasty critters.