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Would You Eat Crickets? Cricket Flour Might Just Be The New Protein Powder

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Protein, protein, protein. We preach the benefits nonstop as an integral part of any lean physique.

But what if we told you there was a buzzworthy new protein source that offered more nutritional perks than beef, chicken, and dairy, without the destructive environmental impact or allergy issues?

Fortunately, there is. Unfortunately, it’s probably going to gross you out just a little bit. Start embracing cricket (not the sport). Cue visions of Snowpiercer.

Stay with me and try not to freak out. Unlike the infinite varieties of water (artichoke water?), yogurt, kombucha, and other “superfoods,” cricket flour is worth the hype and legitimately has WORLD-changing potential.

Just look at Exo Cricket Protein Bars — they received $1.2MM in venture funding back in September 2014. The revolution is coming.1

Eating bugs isn’t a new concept. 80% of the world—and well over 2 billion people—already eat more than 1,900 different types of bugs, we just don’t in the western world.23 It’s so common and, well, normal elsewhere that the UN released a massive 200-page paper back in 2013 urging people to embrace the idea, or at least entertain it.

But what’s suddenly making crickets so en vogue as a food source and protein option?

Ding, ding, ding. It all boils down to one key word: sustainability.

 

The Cricket–Sustainability Connection


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Image: Exo Cricket Protein

Crickets are a HUGE deal because of their environmental impact. Or more specifically, their lack thereof.

It’s no secret that cows and other forms of livestock are slowly destroying the planet. Some would go so far as to call it a crisis. They’re not wrong. Given that global food requirements are expected to double by 2050, paired with the fact that global warming is very real and getting worse, the issue is only going to get hotter.

Globally, it’s estimated that livestock generates 18% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including a disproportionately high percentage of nitrous oxide and methane — gases that pack 296x and 23x the Global Warming Potential of CO2, respectively.4

For scale, that’s worst than the transportation sector. Beef, poultry, and dairy are quite literally killing the environment.

Comparatively, crickets and other insects contribute virtually no GHG emissions. The UN mapped out emissions that result from various types of food production. Unsurprisingly, cattle shot up like a skyscraper.5

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On top of absurdly high GHG spewage, meat production churns through an ENORMOUS amount of water and animal feed. As a food source, it’s incredibly inefficient, bloated, and resource-heavy.

  • Water Use. Cattle use 1,000-2,000 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat → Crickets use 1 gallon per pound of meat. That’s 1,000-2,000x less, if you needed any help.
  • Feed Needs. Cattle uses 6x more feed than crickets.
  • Low Waste. — ~80% of each cricket can be converted into edible food, compared to 40% for beef and 55% for pork/poultry. Because the exoskeleton and internal organs are all edible, there’s very little waste (and consequently, higher nutrient levels).6

All of that summed up = more food from less input. AKA food efficiency.

Not that anyone’s thinking of substituting filet mignon for cricket burgers, but given the multipliers and a non-existent presence in North America, a tiny shift in consumption would make a MASSIVE lasting impact — even if cricket flour is used purely for energy bars, protein powder, and baking.

And unsurprisingly, it might just be healthier, too.


 

Okay Cool, But Can Crickets Get Me Jacked?


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You better believe it.

Above all else, crickets are an exceptionally high quality protein source. They contain all 9 essential amino acids and pack roughly 20.5g of protein per 100g — that’s on par with chicken and salmon, and 6g higher than an egg.7

Assuming the flavor issue gets worked out, that alone makes cricket flour a viable protein source.

And unlike beef and dairy, cricket protein is inherently au naturel and untampered. There’s no grass-fed vs. corn-fed controversy. No GMOs or hormonal impact, like you’ll see in soy. And allergies, lactose intolerance, and other digestive issues are a complete non-issue.

Well, unless you’re allergic to shellfish. Crickets are arthropods—like crabs and shrimp—and can trigger a similar reaction (fun fact).

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Additionally, and more impressively, they’re hopping with nutrients — including high levels of iron, zinc, vitamin B12, potassium, and calcium. That’s a really big deal, especially for vegans and vegetarians, as they’re often deficient in both B12 and iron.

And BONUS POINTS: because you’re basically eating the entire cricket—exoskeleton and organs included—crickets are naturally high in fiber and omega-3s, too.

“We believe delicious and healthy protein bars are an intelligent first step towards normalizing the consumption of insects, which will in turn have enormous global impact. Much like the California Roll first introduced Westerners to sushi in the 1960s by combining the raw fish with avocado, rice and seaweed, we intend our bars to serve as an introductory vehicle for insects by combining cricket flour with more familiar ingredients like nut butters and fruits. The sashimi comes later.” — Exo

All of that considered might make cricket THE ultimate protein source.

 

How Do I Pump More Cricket Into My Diet?


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It’s not hard. The market is exploding with innovative new cricket products from savvy, environment-conscious entrepreneurs, and it’s poised to push even further in 2015.

Pick your favorite and support the movement. Or just take a flight on JetBlue.

Like you probably are, we were utterly terrified to try it at first. But we ripped open a few Exo bars anyway. FOR SCIENCE!

Other than being hyper-attuned to any and all crunchy bites, you’d have absolutely no clue they were ever made from bugs. The PB&J, Apple Cinnamon, and Blueberry Vanilla flavors were actually quite delightful, with a chewy consistency similar to a Larabar.

Give crickets a shot, we dare you. You’re doing something positive for both your body AND the environment. Plus, you might even save the human race someday. What’s better than that!?

Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
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References, Notes, Links

  1. PRNewswire — AccelFoods Alumnus, Exo, Secures $1.2 Million in Next Round of Financing []
  2. Exo Cricket Flour Protein Bars — Why Crickets? []
  3. FAO — Edible insects Future prospects for food and feed security []
  4. FAO — The Role of Livestock in Climate Change []
  5. FAO — Edible insects Future prospects for food and feed security []
  6. Vox — 6 reasons you should consider eating insects []
  7. Slate — Your Post-Workout Protein Shake Should Be Loaded With Insects []