I was unable to find them in my marketplace, but crickets (and other insects) are on the way to the mainstream. At a recent Fancy Food Show there were at least three enterprises offering cricket-based, high-protein products. Although there are still some questions regarding labeling, preparation, and safety, with a potential billion dollar market predicted in the US alone, these will be resolved. Much like those who question almond “milk,” (where are the mammaries on an almond?), some take exception to the term “cricket flour,” saying that flour can only come from grain. Most of the commercial products that I have seen use the description, “cricket protein powder” and the word flour sometimes appears in parentheses. It’s already getting resolved.
Cricket farming, or ranching, does require plenty of preparation and some pretty precise housing requirements, including a nursery, if you want to keep regenerating a supply. The turnaround time is pretty quick. Crickets are usually harvested at 6 to 8 weeks. Much is being learned and many proprietary feeds and methods are being developed. Crickets are omnivores and crickets might do well on the grain leavings from large scale breweries and other wasted by-products. The protein profile is robust but with current prices somewhere in the area of $40 per pound, we have a ways to go to make cricket powder a family staple.
Crickets can be sun-dried, freeze-dried, dehydrated, or baked in an oven. If you’re willing you can add seasoning along the way during any of those processes or season them later. They’d be ready to eat as a crunchy snack at that point. Kind of hard to dip though! Most popular is to grind or mill the crickets to a fine powder that can be added to a variety of foods. The high quality stuff gets two or more millings, one rough grind from which legs, wings, and other bits which might get stuck in your teeth are removed. That would help!
All this makes me think back to summers in Maine when the family would drive to Lake St. George for a swim and a picnic. There was this little country store on the way that all kinds of things that we never saw in town. One of our favorites was a small box of foil-wrapped chocolates. Each bite-sized morsel contained different insects: grasshopper, cricket, bee, or ants. I think they were color coded and I recall the bees as being a favorite. I have no idea where they came from or how much they cost but for a couple preteen boys it was way cool to eat those suckers! But I digress.
Be prepared. The crickets are coming to your table. With low impact on the environment, cricket ranching is a growth industry. Even cricket poop is good shit. It’s dry, easy to handle, and ship. It has good amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (i.e. good NPK values, for you farmers). The official term for cricket waste is frass, by the way, and I don’t know why. Frass goes for about $10 a pound. Don’t eat it, fertilize your garden.
Canada’s largest grocer already offers cricket powder under their President’s Choice private label. The supplier of the cricket powder is Entomo Farms of Ontario. Cricket farm co-founder Jarrod Goldin says,”The taste varies based on concentration. A small amount won’t add any flavor, otherwise it has a very lovely, earthy, nutty, mushroomy kind of flavor.”
Other bugs are out there too, waiting to jump onto your plate and provide a greener alternative to high environmental impact meats like beef, chicken and pork. Hmm. I’ll have top check and see if bugs are part of the Green New Deal!
I dare you. Eat a bug!