Crickets: More than summer chirping

By Don “Doc” Sanders

Companies like Cargill focus on producing protein from soybeans and other high-yielding sources. I don’t know if they have started growing insects as a protein source, but I have little doubt they are evaluating the possibilities.

Insects have the potential, in the gazillions, to be a major source of protein for mankind. Millions of metric tons of protein could be derived from insects, as they outnumber all other species. Scientists have identified one million insect species. Probably 4 million more are still to be discovered.  

One of the more appetizing insects that I have eaten are crickets. I can testify, from experience, that crickets are a popular food in other countries, where they’re a real delicacy. And they can enhance the flavor of your breakfast cereal. I discovered that little secret at breakfast at a client’s home in Bogota, Colombia. 

Crickets are best frozen. Before you add crickets to your breakfast cereal, I recommend picking off the legs. Otherwise, you’ll have to floss after breakfast to remove the little jiggers from between your teeth.

Fortunately, my Colombian host purchased his crickets frozen with the legs already plucked. I found them to be a tasty topping on my Cheerios as they enhanced the flavor. (General Mills, take note.) 

Had I known this before, I wouldn’t have needed to top off my little Cheerio “O’s” with a dollop of brown sugar when my wife wasn’t looking. Although, I do admit, lumpy brown sugar is one of my favorite Cheerios sweeteners. My mom could never determine which of her four boys regularly left the lid off the brown sugar cannister, causing the contents to get lumpy. I still salivate over memories of crunching the sugar lumps that lingered in the bottom of my cereal bowl.

Crickets, long a recognized food product in other countries, have only in recent years been introduced on U.S. menus. Allow me share with you a little history of a pioneering effort in the U.S. for cricked-based treats. 

It allegedly started when a grade-schooler brought home a snickerdoodle made of cricket flour on Earth Day. His family declared it scrumptious. And a day later his parents, who were dedicated foodies concerned about the American diet and the impact of “industrial” farming, started planning a cricket farm. They built their cricket farm in a Minneapolis warehouse, and by 2018 were selling cricket goodies.

This family, Chad and Claire Simon and son Maddox, dubbed their enterprise 3Cricketeers. 3Cricketeers has turned thousands of crickets into chocolate-coated crickets, cracker snacks and cricket flour for baking. They entered the 2022 Yale University Environment 360 Film Contest and won first runner-up. I think they should appear on the TV show “Shark Tank” to go nationwide.

I know firsthand, after being served frozen crickets on my breakfast cereal in Colombia, that they are tasty and crunchy. And they’re rather pricey — over $47 a pound in Bogota.

But to raise, crickets are rather economical. They require a teensy amount of land, feed and water, compared to other sources of protein. But can you imagine keeping them cornered? They don’t fly, but they would outshine goats in jumping over fences! Grasshoppers, on the other hand….

I wonder how crickets’ production efficiency stacks up against trout or cod. My friends at Freshwater Farms of Ohio in Urbana tell me they can get a pound of gain in their trout per 1.25 pounds of feed. Research would help determine how many milligrams of feed is needed to produce a milligram of cricket. 

3Cricketeers claims that crickets, when included in your diet, have anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic effects and lower blood pressure. I can buy into the anti-diabetic claims, because crickets are a high-protein source, but show me the science on the rest of their claims.

Eating insects is called entomophagy and is pretty common in China, but so is biting the heads off of bats and eating them (is that batomophagy?). If you try a bat as a protein source, be sure and wear a bib as they are kind of messy. Maybe this is a major selling point for eating crickets instead.

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