Remember that time I ate a cricket? I ate the roasted cricket on a cracker to prove to myself I could do it. I did it, but it was difficult to get past the thought that I was chewing on a cricket. At the James Beard Conference in 2015, I had the opportunity to eat cricket again, this time in a more palatable form.
I'm eating crickets because they're a sustainable form of protein that people all over the world eat. Our revulsion to eating food-grade insects is cultural. There is little difference between eating a cricket and eating shrimp. Bugs are similar to crustaceans. Insects are high in protein, iron, zinc and other necessary nutrients, and they have a very small ecological footprint. They can even be good for your gut. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison determined that people who consumed insects produced more beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium animalis which improved their gastrointestinal function.
"This study is important because insects represent a novel component in Western diets and their health effects in human populations haven’t really been studied," coauthor Tiffany Weir said in a statement. "With what we now know about the gut microbiota and its relationship to human health, it’s important to establish how a novel food might affect gut microbial populations. We found that cricket consumption may actually offer benefits beyond nutrition."
While the benefits of eating insects are out there, I am still slowly — very slowly — easing my way into accepting insects as a viable replacement for other forms of meat.
Take a look at some products that are going to make that transition much easier. They might make it a little easier for you to accept insects as a form of protein, too.
I sampled the Everything version of these crackers made with cricket flour at the James Beard Conference, and I really liked them. In fact, on Instagram I wrote, "I just ate crackers made with cricket flour. Really good. Seriously. I'd munch on these any time." They tasted nutty and salty. Crickers are made with "a blend of nutritious, grain-free flours like almond and coconut flour, high protein cricket flour, and a blend of superfoods such as chia and flax seeds, coconut oil, honey and herbs." Made in Austin, creators Leah Jones and Megan McDonald source cricket flour from a local cricket farm and the honey and herbs in the products are made locally, too.
Cricket cookies? Yep. Created by Megan Miller and Leslie Ziegler, with some culinary direction from Chef Tyler Florence, these cookies come in three varieties: chocolate chip, chocolate cardamom and orange ginger. Slow-roasted sustainable crickets create a nutty flour that's mixed with ingredients like coconut oil. Based in San Francisco, Bitty's mission is to "popularize edible insects in the Western diet by incorporating them into delectable, healthy treats."
Chapul markets itself as "the original cricket energy bar." Chapul CEO Pat Crowley introduced the bars on the TV show "Shark Tank" where he was given $500,000 to invest in the company. They contain complete protein and nutrients like iron and B12.
Chirps are marketed as an alternative to potato chips. Made with beans, corn, peas, chia seeds and cricket flour, they have three times more protein and 40 percent less fat that potato chips. One serving has 6 grams of protein. Made by three "women on a mission," Laura D’Asaro, Rose Wang and Meryl Natow, the chirps are available in sea salt, aged cheddar and hickory barbecue flavors.
There you have it — foods where crickets are one of the main ingredients but you don't see the insect before snacking away. As the cricket food industry grows, I imagine those of us in the United States will ease our way very slowly into accepting crickets and other insects as part of our diets.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in October 2015.