Insects are eaten word wide, period. Accidentally, as a snack, as part of a main meal or as a necessity for daily survival. In the so called ‘modern’ society (western nations), mostly crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms and their flours are used as baking ingredients, energy bar composants or protein powders. There are actually 1900 plus edible species consumed daily worldwide. Some of them grown and harvested, some of them wild and hunted down.
It is stated by entomophagy enthusiasts, that crickets (insects in general) are one of the most sustainable protein sources, but questioned by scientist: Lundy – http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0118785 .
What the pro-insect producers/consumers say about this :
- Insects convert grain matter 10x more efficiently to protein than cows and pigs
- Produce less waste products and less green house gasses for the same amount or more protein transformed
- Insects contain similar or more protein compared to the same weight of beef or porc
- Have less fat but higher omega 3s
- High B-Complex content, but limited B12
- Contain up to 6x higher iron and zinc than beef
- Lower calcium levels than milk, but higher then in beef, chicken or porc
- Contain all 8/9 essential amino acids
- Beef takes 2 to 3 years to raise, insects only 7 weeks from egg to adult
- Can be raised on a lot more variety than poultry, cows and porc. Not only grains, but all kind of organic side-streams. Basically compost !
- They emit less greenhouse gas and by feeding them with organic waste, they further reduce the methane emission of decomposing unused human food matter
What do I think ?
They surely need less space, less food, less water and produce less waste. They also need lot less general treatment, as insects are less exposed to infections, toxins, viruses, bacteria or parasites, due to their short lifespan as mostly harvested after 6 to 8 weeks. Most insects have a sturdier carapace than mammal’s skin, protecting them from all kind of external harm. Insects consumed as whole, so there is no need for butchering facilities, production plants, mass transportation. Drying is a way of preservation in case of insects. It results in 2 to 12months of electricity free shelf-life, compared to 10 days of refrigeration or 6-12months of “icing”! Uneaten dried insects or their powder can be easily reused as soil fertiliser as it decomposes super fast after got into contact with the ground ! Cannot be said about animal flash ! Insects can also be produced geographically anywhere from the arctic to the equator ! If paired up with aquaponic growing, vertical farming, rooftop and urban plantations, beehive taping and other innovative sustainable local agricultural techniques, the potential becomes enormous ! The list goes on. If we replaced right now 50% of all meat and fish consumption with properly managed sustainable insects, I think the earth could have a breather from pollution and over-exploitation ! This would give us time to think about finding new ways of saving our planet !
In my opinion we should aim for a balanced act on reducing, sea, air and land pollution. It seems that by replacing some of the industrial animal protein, maybe up to 80% would be great step towards this. We know that a proper vegan diet functions very well, so there is no need to eat a full chicken, sausages and corned beef every single day. If a family could have one poultry, one beef and one porc meal a week, what are 3 out of 21 occasions is a great start. (There were some “human taste trials” on replacing 50% of beef in a burger with cricket protein and participants found no actual difference between taste, texture and feeling of fulfilledness afterwards. Arnold Van Huis – Entomology researcher’s experiment) Adding in some insects 6 – 7 times a week, would already be a solution against pollution. Of course their are many humans who are ready to do a 180° turn to change their and other’s life with absolutely zero transition time. Unfortunately they are just one single seed in a giant bag of poppies ! A gradual transformation is more achievable, hoping that it wouldn’t take too long.
We should also regard insects as a part of daily, normal nutrition, not as a protein source. There is much more to it! Outside the micro- and macro-nutritional levels. Yes, insects have very high levels of minerals, contain quality omega 3s and all the essential amino acids, zinc, calcium, magnesium and so. We should not look at them this way. We know, that isolated nutrients and synthetic supplements do little good for the body. Beta carotene will never replace carrot or kale, nor supplemental iron will take the role of liver, spinach, beans and raisins. As plants contain phytochemicals, whole insects feature important bio-information what can serve our health. Medicinal insects have been in use since the beginning of time.
I find, that despite all the highlighted environmental positives, prices are super high ! If crickets need less treatment, less workers, less space, less water and basically less of everything, why does it cost 10 to 100 times more than beef, porc and poultry, but even wild caught alaskan salmon ? The cheapest I found in the US is about 6€ for 100g of cricket flour. That still comes back as 60€ for 1kg of flour ! 60€ for under a 5000calories ? Surely not empty calories, like canola oil or bleached wheat flour, but still very pricey ! A bag of medium quality rice is like 2€ for 3600kcals; I add some organic spinach, a carrot, lemon and a can of sardines, some red lentils, 3-4 almonds, salt and pepper and have a 3 person meal for under 10bucks, with all the necessary nutrients needed! I mean, this sounds like very cheap, but three meals a day would cost 30€ and this would end up 900€ a month ! 5 person families survive and thrive on less than quarter of this and 60€ is actually a whole week’s worth of food to 2parents with 3 children !
The first big entrepreneur, who will turn all of his/her attention to the sustainable edible insect market and push down the prices towards the under 10USD a kilo and later even much lower, will completely kill all the concurrents and change the entire “protein market” and maybe the planet! It will need a brilliant mind, but in the modern world, there are many !
In this day and age, the most potential market are athletes ! Protein and Amino Acid products are the most sold supplements ever and the quality in general is really bad ! Industrial byproducts are transformed into health/sport deals !
However, cricket protein bars and powders need no preservatives, colouring, additives or stabilisers if dried well, packaged and shipped correctly and stored appropriately ! In addition to the full spectrum protein and quality fat content, it has other nutritional benefits and the still undiscovered and non-researched bio-information !
You like post workout smoothies ? Throw these into a blender :
- 3-5dl quality water, almond milk, coconut water, but even carrot juice, chilled green tea or herbal infusion can do it
- 2 medjool dates
- 2 ripe bananas
- heaped tea spoon of cinnamon
- 2 spoons of cricket powder ( 30g for over 15g/60kcals of protein)
- You can add 3-4 almonds, chia seeds or cooked butternut squash, spinach/kale or boiled sweet potatoes
Crickets and actually all insects, have a nutty bite and some marzipany flavors to them.
The big Cricket Test
I contacted some leading brands in the cricket industry to compare their bars and powders. Not to create a competition or to state one is better than the other, but more likely to popularise them. To open the public eye towards insect consumption. These companies are working together to uplift the current European and American grand public insect market. (Guess what, even Starbucks was using insect powders to dye their products)
Actually there is nothing new in these energy bars in case of basic ingredients. Raisins, almond paste, dried fruits, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, oats, spiruline, dark chocolate, chia, dates and figs, acai berry, ginger, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes and oil, MCT powder, tiger nuts… but with the added insects regardless of the maintained traditional taste, the nutritional value doubles or even tripples up !
Quality insect powders and insect proteins are surely superior to nearly all other proteins in the market. Honestly, I would definitely place it over even the highest grade organic grass fed goat whey isolate ! Why ? Because it is a whole product. Only water is removed ! No other process is necessary. The carapace, the legs, the head, the eyes, the intestines, all are inside! Dry and pulverise on low heat, then ship !
If prices were accessible, I would be happy to consume insects daily as part of my normal diet. As a side-dish of a full meal, as a seasoning, as a protein powder or as part of a home made energy bar ! I don’t have prejudice, don’t cringe over or have nauseous esophagus contractions, if I had to eat insects. How do you overcome this mental barrier ? Easy ! Go to an artisanal fresh meat market or a meat production plant, then visit a spice and insect whole sale lot! You’d be surprised about the differences in smell, cleanliness, but even in the look of the sales persons. Something appetizing waking up your senses, compared to the bland smell of untreated flesh !
I recommend you to try some insects, maybe in the form of protein bars first. Then you can go ahead by using insect flour or whole insects. Chapul has been around since 2012 and is one of the leading cricket energy bar companies. There are also Jimini’s, EatGrub, CroBar, ExoProtein, LithicNutrition, JungleBar, Yumpabar and so.
Can Eating Insects Save the World? BBC Documentary – . Watch this film, and see how in some parts of the world, children collect insects before class, then the cook prepares them as lunch for the whole school !
“Why Not Eat Insects?” – In 1885 Vincent M. Holt published a small pamphlet, in which he explained his theory of “entomophagy” (the eating of insects as a food source).