Crickets: the chorus that serenades the Earth each night, the peculiar creature you probably picked up on a dare on your elementary school playground, could become your next meal. As the need for sustainable practices increases, the demand for greater efficiency in food production does as well. One of the most concerning areas of food production in terms of environmental impact are meat farms, an industry that has quadrupled in production over the past 50 years. The solution: the use of crickets, and other insects, as a source of protein.
The Problem: Unsustainable Meat Production
According to Business Insider, the average Canadian consumes twice the global average of meat per year. When considering carbon footprint, the ethical treatment of animals, and efficiency of production, this statistic becomes concerning. Consider the process: land for livestock is cleared which potentially contributes to deforestation and the destruction of ecosystems, large amounts of livestock are fed often using chemically enhanced nutrients to induce maximum growth, and once these animals are killed they are shipped off in vehicles operating on non-renewable energy sources to be purchased by people like you and I who are blissfully ignorant of the impacts of this system.
Statistics show that a diet with high meat content produces twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as a vegetarian diet. The table below also illustrates the amount of water required for the production of one kilogram of various meats relative to the production of a kilogram of vegetables.
Water Required for Production
Beef- 15,414 litres
Sheep/goat- 8,763 litres
Pork- 5,988 litres
Chicken- 4,325 litres
Vegetables- 322 litres
Factory farming is also an increasingly common practice which raises severe environmental and ethical concerns. These animals are exploited for their market value, being forced to meet our hunger for meat. However, speaking from a biological perspective, the reason our bodies need meat is because they need protein. This is where crickets come in: the protein source of the future.
The Solution: Alternate Protein Source – Crickets
Around 20km outside of Peterborough, Ontario lays Entomo Farms, dedicated to sustainable practices through insect farming. You are probably as shocked as I was when I attended a presentation of theirs this spring at the notion that somehow these creepy crawly insects would improve the environmental conscientiousness and protein intake in my diet. They passed around a jar full of an indiscernible white powder; no smell, no taste, with a texture that resembled flour – I would never have guessed that they were made of ground crickets!
This cricket protein powder contained twice as much protein as beef per pound, as well as twice the amount of essential amino acids which the body needs in order to produce proteins. Crickets also grow 13x faster than beef, drink 2000x less water, require 2000x less land and emit 100x less land. This means that not only are crickets more environmentally sustainable, but also contain more protein than traditional sources. Furthermore, insect rearing requires next to no land as most cricket farms use vertical enclosures (below), and because crickets are so small, hundreds can fit in the space required to hold one cow.
The reason crickets, and other insects, are able to efficiently produce protein is because they are cold-blooded, meaning they are extremely efficient at converting food into protein. From a socioeconomic perspective, the resources and technology necessary to rear crickets are far less extensive than those required for traditional meat production. This means that it provides a business opportunity for even the poorest sections of society, such as women or those who do not own land.
The possibilities with cricket protein powder are endless; it now comes with gluten free and organic options, and even cricket powder you can feed your dog with. Although it is tasteless, cricket powder also comes in all manner of flavours – my personal favourite is honey mustard. The powder can be used to create a range of dishes, from cricket pancakes to cricket muffins to cricket salad dressing. Yum!
It is important to remember that with any change to our habits, we must be willing to expand our comfort zones and explore new ways of thinking. Although cricket farming is not commonplace yet, hopefully time will allow us to take advantage of its environmental and health benefits, which is why I believe crickets are the food of the future.
So, what are you waiting for? Go out and try it for yourself!
By Sneha Wadhwani
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.