Crickets | An Alternative Rich Source of Protein

On our previous article we took a look at the nutritional value of edible insects and one thing that came out, was that insects indeed do pack a punch nutrition wise and their value shouldn't be underestimated in our diet.

For that reason we went digging around to find out which edible insect was rather popular and the one that came first was the cricket, yes that incredibly noisy insect.


What are Crickets?

Crickets are jumping insects that are distantly related to grasshoppers. There are more than 900 species of crickets worldwide and they are usually found in the tropics.

They typically live in grasslands, bushes and forests and are active during the night. This is the reason why they make a lot of noise in the night. Actually it’s the males that makes those chirping songs in order to attract the females. Not all cricket species sing though.

The species most utilized for human consumption is the House Crickets which lives up to only eight weeks.



What makes Crickets the ideal edible insect?

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Crickets ("By Takeaway (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Crickets have and continue to be consumed by humans in different parts of the world. They’re also farmed in large scale in western countries as a source of feed for animals that feed on insects – typically pets or animals in zoos1.

When compared to farmed poultry and livestock, crickets are more efficient for the following reasons:
  • They grow and reproduce much quickly
  • They possess a larger harvestable protein
  • They require much smaller portions of land
  • They require less feed and water
  • Their feed conversion efficiency of feed to meat is better; twice that of chicken, at least four times than that of pigs, and 12 times more efficient than cattle2.
  • They are more environmental friendly in that they produce little greenhouse gases when compared to larger livestock
Nutritionally, crickets are protein and magnesium rich. They are also rich in iron, zinc and vitamin B12. The reason behind this could attributed to the fact that you eat a cricket almost whole unlike let’s say beef cattle where you’ve to remove the offal.

As a matter of fact, up to 80% of a cricket is edible and digestable, a significant number when compared to chicken and cattle which are only 55% and 40% edible respectively2.
100 grams of crickets provides 12.9 grams of protein, 121 calories, and 5.5 grams of fat3.


How to eat your Crickets

Some people do eat them raw but the majority prefer to have them cooked to add some flavour and taste to it. The cooking method varies but they can be boiled, fried or roasted.

They can then be served alongside your typical meal as the protein dish. You can also have them prepare a stew or soup.

Crickets are also being processed into cricket flour which can be used in different dishes including baking. That’s right, you can make some super nutritious cake using crickets.



Is Rearing Crickets Sustainabile?

Commercial production of crickets, such as that making cricket flour, is usually reared in farms. Consequently, such crickets being outside their natural habitat have to be fed like any other commercial livestock or poultry.

Such feed is usually grain based as is the case with the feed used for livestock. For this reason, the environmental benefits of rearing crickets this way as an alternative source of protein is dependent on whether their feed conversion ratio of this grain based feed is better.

To quote a recent study conducted on this subject:
"Compared to the industrial-scale production of chickens, crickets fed a poultry feed diet showed little improvement in protein conversion efficiency, a key metric in determining the ecological footprint of grain-based livestock protein."1

Simply put, commercial production of crickets may not be as sustainable as some tout it to be. The same study1 however suggests that crickets, and I believe this holds true for other edible insects too, can be sustainably reared on organic side streams (e.g. manure, compost, pig manure) that are not being utilised for livestock production.

SHOW/HIDE REFERENCES
1. Lundy ME, Parrella MP (2015) Crickets Are Not a Free Lunch: Protein Capture from Scalable Organic Side-Streams via High-Density Populations of Acheta domesticus. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0118785. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0118785 (Available at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0118785)

2. FAO. 2013. Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed security (Available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e00.htm )

3. Cricket (insect). (2016, September 30). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:51, October 5, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cricket_(insect)&oldid=741977509
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