Entomophagy

Why you Should eat Crickets

The practice of eating insects such as the cricket is called to entomophagy and it’s not something new about it. In fact, archaeological evidence shows us that that’s the case. And a lot of animals, like spiders, birds, and lizards are entomophagous. A lot of insects themselves are entomophagous. If you think that sounds cold-blooded, that’s because they literally are cold-blooded creatures.

I bet you didn’t know that insects were cold-blooded. If you found that fact awesome you should definitely continue to read, if not, then don’t, I will just waste your time. 

Around the world, people have been practicing entomophagy for millennia. And it’s estimated that insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people, and it’s said that 1 900 species of insects have been used for food. The majority of native African and Asian populations, as well as in large parts of South America, eat different insect species in a lot of their dishes. However, due to the spread of the Western outlook on entomophagy, where insects cause the sense of fear and disgust, the rate of consumption of insects has, until recently, dropped. Unfourtoneally people have been looking at individuals practicing entomophagy as “barbarian”. Not to worry though, later on, you are going to see what happens in other places in the world. You might even get surprised.

Cricket

Among the many reasons why you should eat crickets and other insects such as beetles, caterpillars, etc are that they contain:

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

As a matter of fact, insects are a very healthy and nutritious source of food. It can serve as an alternative to regular food like chicken, beef, pork or fish. A lot of insects are also high in:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Zinc

Protein and amino acids

Why You should eat Crickets

As just stated, insects are a source of food naturally high in protein and micronutrients. Significant to the insect is its protein content and compromises about 30%-66% of the total dry matter. And you will find between 46% and 96% of all amino acids are present in insect protein. You’ll also find that its digestibility, for most insect species, is estimated to be between 77% and 98%. Studies made with rats have shown that crickets offer a superior source of protein if one compares it to a plant source protein, soy protein.

The Environment

Why You should eat Crickets

But another reason why you should eat crickets is the environmental factor. The environment has, as we know, been under attack for some time now… But, I’m happy to announce that insects promoted as food doesn’t give out as much greenhouse gases as conventional livestock such as cattle, which gives us beef.

What people choose to eat don’t just have an impact on the individual level, like your health. It affects our planet too. Considering the many benefits of entomophagy, I see it’s potential as a great source of food. Hopefully, it’ll be one of the things to a more sustainable future.

Looking at the livestock and agriculture industries we see estimates claiming as much as 70% of the freshwater is being used for it. 

When I hear this, alarm bells go off, considering freshwater is a finite resource. People and companies that practice insect rearing don’t automatically need to do it on land, and because of this land clearing isn’t a must. Thusly, if you choose to purchase food fortified with the protein from, say crickets, you have taken one step in your life to help the planet. Fortified food using protein from crickets or other insects is something I for one hope to see in the near future.

Also, insect rearing doesn’t give out quite as much ammonia emissions as you normal farm animals do. One thing I bet you haven’t thought of is the fact that insects too need to eat, just like your normal cow. However, there’s one crucial difference between that of the conventional livestock and that of the cricket. That difference is that crickets need:

  • 12 times less feed than cattle
  • Four times less feed than sheep 
  • Half as much feed as is needed for pigs and broiler chickens

And those numbers are based on the production of the same amount of protein.

  • Insects can be sustainably reared on organic side streams like manure and compost. 

Why You should eat Crickets
By getting your protein from crickets and other insects you’re also contributing to the economic and social strengthening of the poorer sections of society. Poorer countries, women and the landless, the rural and the urban people will get a chance to earn an income. This because:

  • Rearing insects can be low-tech or high-tech.
  • It doesn’t require a high-capital investment.
  • With a low capital investment, you can start out small and then grow your business.
  • It doesn’t require a lot of space.
  • Have a higher demand than supply.
  • The reproductive rate is high.
  • Just a short period will give you a high inflow of cash.
  • A high to even higher financial returns in many cases.
  • Are fairly easy to manage.
  • Are easy to transport.
  • Are easy to do and doesn’t require specialized training.

Because of the high environmental impact of the production of meat, reducing the amount of meat consumed is key to a lot of the scientific debates. Consider this, 80-100% of the insect is thought of as being edible while at the same time conventional livestock lands at 40%-50%. For example, a team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College found that:

  • Halving global consumption of animal products by eating more insects or imitation meat would free up 1680 million hectares of land. This would be 70 times the size of the UK.
  • And not too surprisingly, beef is by far the least sustainable according to the team.

Moreover, research tells us that livestock consumes about a third of all harvested crops. And, if we were to replace 50 % of the meat we eat globally with crickets and mealworms, farmland would be cut by a third. If environmentally inclined, this too was an example of why you should eat crickets.

By the way, you have already consumed an insect related food, many and many times before, but I’m sure most of you haven’t thought about it since it’s part of our culture. Ring a bell? Well, I’ll tell you, it’s honey and as you know it comes from bees.

South East Asia

Why You Should Eat Crickets

You’ll find that about 150 to 200 species of insects are consumed in Sout East Asia. As a matter of fact,  a lot of places in the world eat insects and one of those places is the country of Thailand. It is also the best example of rearing crickets for human needs in the tropics. A place where you can find around 20 000 cricket farmers. The native Thai cricket is called Gryllus bimaculatus. 

There’s an increase in demand for edible insects in Thailand. With the increase in demand, quantities of insects are brought into Thailand from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Cambodia. This is then sold in the Rong Kluea market, close to the Cambodian border.

And in Cambodia and the Lao People’s Republic farmers are saying that buyers like the farmed crickets over the ones caught in the wild because they taste better. This is a surprise, at least for the west. Normally one tends to equate “the wild” and “grass fed” with something that tastes better. Harvesting wild insects in Asia and the Pacific has been something people have done for personal consumption, at a”village level”.

However, nowadays insects harvested from the wild has become a source of income since these village people not only gather them for themselves. With the help of modern transportation systems, people from the villages can now bring those extra ones to the market for sale.

Upon the critical situation now facing our current and future food security in relation to the environment and sustainability, a study has recently been conducted. The study was conducted in north-eastern Thailand. The point of the study was to evaluate the environmental impact.

The study used the crickets, Gryllus bimaculatus De Geer which is the field cricket and, Acheta domesticus which is the house cricket.

They demonstrated a possible future scenario of cricket farming, where the cricket farming system was scaled-up, caused a reduction in overall environmental impacts, compared to the cricket production of today.

Thailand, Lao People’s Republic, and Cambodia are just a few of the places where people eat insects. In Africa when there aren’t as many staples, say during the rainy season, they become an important food source. And, in some areas, up to 50% of the dietary protein in Central Africa, at times, comes from insects.

Thailand and its crop-pest control

Why you Should eat Crickets

Crickets among other insects are part of the staple diet of the Thai people. There’s this one bug that’s very popular as a snack, it’s not the cricket like I normally like to talk about but “Patanga succincta”.

Patanga succincta is a locust. I bring this up to show you an example of how our eating habits can change for the better. You see, the reason to why the locust Patanga succincta is so popular as a snack is because of the Thai government. In the nineteen seventies, specifically in 1978, there was a locust outbreak and in order to conduct a successful crop pest control, they did something very clever.

They simply promoted the edibility of this insect. Today, that bug is no longer “bugging” anybody. Consequently, farmers now grow crops specifically to feed them. This due to the shift in market value. Now, you might not think having read about insects in South East Asia qualify as a reason to why you should eat insects. However, I assure you that it does. We have literally mentioned something of great importance. The empirical evidence of just some of the benefits of entomophagy. In other words, it’s something that people do eat, it just works.

Rich Countries Eat Insects too

Why you Should eat Crickets

Insects are not just “poor peoples” food. As a matter of fact, one of the wealthier nation’s people eat them too and that’s the Japanese. In Japan, you find insects part of the long-established diet. And in 1919, 55 species of edible insects were documented. Because of a societal and environmental shift, fewer species of insects are now available. My personal favorite insects are the cricket and the bee. In Japan, however, wasps seem to be the bug of choice.

Wasps are deeply rooted in the Japanese food culture.  It even has a yearly festival where they celebrate its consumption. People also compete during this celebration where they compare who has the biggest wild-harvested or cultivated wasp nest. You also find an exchange of knowledge on collection and ways of cultivation. While there, they eat different kinds of wasp food too.

Cricket and Micronutrients

You’ll find that iron levels in insects are high, ranging from 18 to 1562 mg/100 g dry matter across insect species. Ants containing low levels, termites in the mid-levels and, you find the highest levels of iron in crickets. Moreover, zinc, calcium and vitamin A are all micronutrients existing in insects. It’s said crickets contain zinc ranging from 8-25 mg/100 g dry matter. Looking at ants, termites, and crickets you’ll find they contain calcium ranging from 33-341 mg/100 g dry matter with crickets containing the most calcium.

Summary

While there are a lot more to entomophagy than stated above we have touched upon some important issues and we have learned why you should eat crickets:

  • Getting your protein from crickets and other insects are to humanities benefit. 
  • Crickets contain protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and, minerals.
  • Insects are not “poor peoples” food.
  • Has a lower environmental impact.
  • Crickets are part of the staple diet of the Thai people.
  • Halving global consumption of animal products by eating more insects or imitation meat would free up 1680 million hectares of land. This would be 70 times the size of the UK.
  • Eating insects can be used as a crop-pest control.
  • Crickets need  12 times less feed than cattle.
  • 70% of the freshwater is being used for the livestock and agricultural industry.
  • 80-100% of the insect is thought of as being edible while at the same time conventional livestock lands at 40%-50%

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