Today we have for you an excellent source of protein doesn't moo, cluck or grow in a pod — it chirps, because it's a cricket. Despite having been considered a delicacy in several parts of the world for some time now, these common picnic disturbers are finally making their way to the American plate — and for good reason.
Every 100 grams of cricket contains 69 grams of protein, compared to the same portion's 43 grams in beef or 31 grams in chicken, according to the Atlantic. Crickets are high in fiber and iron and have all the essential amino acids. "They are nutty and they kind of taste like popcorn," Cameron Marshad, who's working on the documentary The Gateway Bug with Johanna Kelly told Mic. "Crickets right now, as the movie title goes, they're the gateway bug." In fact, 2016 may just become the year of the cricket.
For the last 100 years, cricket farms have existed in the United States solely for the reptile and pet food industries. The change to human mouths is probably because of the existing farms and our neighbor Mexico's affinity for grasshoppers, or chapulines. Crickets could also change the state of agriculture as a means of food waste management, helping to "reduce our reliance on meat and water," Marshad said.
"The whole insect is the healthiest way to eat the insect, rather than eating foods filled with sugars," he said. Eating the bug whole means eating the exoskeleton, muscles and organs, each of which contains many nutrients, such as zinc and calcium. Eating the insect in its entirely is "like if somebody ground up a whole cow," according to Men's Health. (Please accept our apologies for burdening you with that terrifying mental imagery.)
The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook-author David George Gordon told Vice that freezing the bugs and sautéing them with butter and garlic is a great start to cooking them whole. He also noted that tossing the crickets in the oven then shaking them in a bag can detach their legs and antennae, if those parts in particular turn you off.
Startups are beginning to produce crickets in food products like chips, flours and various food bars. These processed products make eating crickets more accessible, less stigmatized and easier to incorporate into one's daily lifestyle.
Thanks to early buzz generating $4 million in seed funding, the cricket purveyors at Exo are able to offer gluten-, soy- and dairy-free cricket protein bars in flavors like cocoa nut and mango curry. Each bar packs at least 10 grams of protein. Another company, Bitty, sells cricket flour so people at home can bake cookies or make pancakes; it tastes like "dark toast," according to the New York Times.
"The [person] we're going after as an early adopter: Someone who cares about fitness and nutrition and [who] cares about the food they're putting in their body," Exo co-CEO Greg Sewitz told NPR.