For Westerners, snacking on insects isn’t mainstream. But that may change, thanks to the rising trend of edible bugs and cricket-based snacks — like those from Chirps, Don Bugito, EXO, Hotlix, Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch and SEEK. There are even dog biscuits from Chippin (yes, even a cricket-based Scooby Snack!). A recent market study from Meticulous Research Ltd finds that “The global edible insects market is expected to reach 7.96 billion by 2030.”

a flatbread with minced garlic on it. surrounding it on a wood countertop are cloves of garlic, sprigs of rosemary, a rolling pin, flour and a bag of cricket powder

Food security worries have prompted food innovators to rethink the wheres and hows of sourcing healthy protein. As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) has documented, “by 2050, Earth will host 9 billion people. To accommodate this number, current food production needs to double. Land is scarce, and expanding the area devoted to farming is rarely a viable or sustainable option. Oceans are overfished, and climate change and related water shortages could have profound implications for food production.”

Related: Pet food manufacturers are experimenting with insects instead of meat

A possible solution to the food insecurity conundrum is insects as a food source. The FAO consequently announced, “Edible insects contain high quality protein, vitamins and amino acids for humans. Insects have a high food conversion rate – crickets need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and twice less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. Besides, they emit less greenhouse gases and ammonia than conventional livestock…Therefore, insects are a potential source for conventional production (mini-livestock) of protein, either for direct human consumption, or indirectly in recomposed foods (with extracted protein from insects).”

“Of the 1.1 million species of insects scientists have identified and named, 1,700 are edible,” PBS News Hour reported. Over 2 billion people already dine on cicadas, grasshoppers, locusts, crickets and more. These insects’ textural crunchiness can be likened to that of crawfish or shrimp popcorn. And just as sushi was not yet widely appealing 40 to 50 years ago, so, too, can Western culture learn to accept crickets as a viable meal source.

to the left a salad, in the center a bow of pasta in red sauce. behind the bowl is a box that reads "Cricket Pasta"

Crickets, after all, present many advantages. For one, they’re a more sustainable alternative to beef, lamb and pork. David Glacer, Entomological Society of America (ESA) academic, elaborated that crickets “reproduce rapidly, have short lifecycles, can be farmed in urban agriculture at high concentrations without antibiotics, unlike what’s seen in farmed vertebrates. And, insects do not produce potentially harmful byproducts, unlike pig farms that have large and toxic liquid lagoons, and unlike the salmonella issues we have with chickens and E. coli from beef.”

Secondly, crickets don’t spread diseases as cattle do with mad cow disease, or as pigs do with swine flu. As described by Brian Fisher, California Academy of Sciences entomologist, “There is almost zero chance that any disease that affects an insect could actually impact a human after it’s cooked.”

Moreover, crickets are generally healthier than traditional meat by being low-fat, iron-rich, high-protein and even high in omega-3 content. As PBS News Hour explained, “A six-ounce serving of crickets has 60% less saturated fat and twice as much vitamin B-12 than the same amount of ground beef.”

Likewise, a University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that crickets are beneficial for gut bacteria and for reducing systemic inflammation in the body. That’s attributed to the crickets’ chitin fibers, which are unlike plant-based fibers. These cricket-derived chitin fibers promote a different set of bacterial growth, or probiotic environment, found to be beneficial to the gastrointestinal tract.

to the top left is a bowl of what appears to be shredded coconut. to the top right is a shaved, whole coconut. to the bottom left are tan colored snack balls covered in shredded coconut. to the bottom right is a bag of cricket powder

Given the positive feedback on crickets as a meal source, these edible insects can be processed into protein-rich flour for baked goods or into other meal products, since cricket-rich nosh also packs a nutritious protein punch! Here are Inhabitat’s recommendations for cricket-based morsels to try:

Chirps Cricket Protein Chips and more. Chirps crafts 100% pure cricket powder, plus several varieties of chips, protein powder, flour and cookies. Chirps Cricket Protein Chips are popular, emblazoned with the “Eat Bugs” logo. They’re flavored in cheddar, barbecue or sriracha. Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts can try Chirps Cricket Protein Powder for high protein milkshakes or smoothies in either creamy vanilla or rich chocolate flavors. Those preferring to bake their own goodies can try Chirps Cricket Powder, a cricket-based flour free of gluten, GMOs, grain, soy, wheat and whey. Or, sample the Chirps Chocolate Chirp Cookie Mix to bake homemade cricket cookies.

Don Bugito edible cricket snacks. San Francisco-based Don Bugito offers “planet-friendly protein snacks, featuring delicious edible insects.” Don Bugito’s merchandise includes Chile-Lime Crickets with Pumpkin Seeds, Dark Chocolate Crickets with Amaranth Seeds, Cricket Protein Powder, Granola Bites with Cricket Flour, and Toasted Crickets.

EXO cricket energy and protein bars. Originally founded by Brown University graduates, EXO was eventually acquired by Aspire Food Group (AFG), becoming AFG’s consumer brand. EXO’s forte includes cricket-based energy bars and protein bars, whole roasted crickets, and even cricket flour. EXO energy bar flavors include banana bread, blueberry vanilla, coconut, and PB&J. EXO’s indulgent protein bar flavors are chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate fudge brownie and peanut butter chocolate chip. The whole roasted insects come in Crispy Taco Roasted Crickets, Sea Salt and Vinegar Roasted Crickets, Sriracha Roasted Crickets and Texas BBQ Roasted Crickets.

Crick-ettes and cricket lollipops from Hotlix. Hotlix began as a Pismo Beach candy store back in the early 1980s. The proprietor crafted candy products reflecting his interest in entomophagy, the consumption of bugs and insects. So, in 1982, Hotlix unveiled its first insect product, a tequila-flavored lollipop with a real worm inside it. Ants, crickets, earthworms and arachnids were later added to other lollipop offerings, followed by Crick-ettes and Larvets snacks. Hotlix claims it began the candy insect food revolution almost four decades ago. It continues its mission “to bring a smile to people’s faces when they see our amazingly colorful and creative insect-based sweets and savory insect snacks.”

Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch cricket jerky and cricket pasta. Colorado’s first edible insect farm, the Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch (RMMR), has raised crickets for wholesale as well as processed them into flour. RMMR’s client list includes restaurants, food manufacturers and wholesalers. For example, RMMR crickets and cricket flour goes into the hand-crafted Insectables Roasted Crickets snack, which comes in Ranch, Mexican-Spiced or Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper flavors. But perhaps RMMR’s uniqueness is its cricket-based Chirpy Jerky, made from whole crickets, as well as its Cricket Tagliatelle Pasta, made from cricket flour. 

SEEK’s cricket protein granola. SEEK’s online store features flours, granola and energy bites — all made from cricket protein. Another favorite is SEEK’s Cricket Cookbook with delicious recipes to make use of all its cricket protein products.

Chippin cricket-based dog treats. Your family’s canine best friend can also enjoy cricket protein snacks. Chippin’s Smokehouse BBQ dog snack is made from sweet potato and cricket. Bananas, crickets and blueberries, meanwhile, are combined to formulate Chippin’s Antioxidant Boost dog snack. What’s wonderful about Chippin dog treats? These dog snacks have no artificial flavors nor preservatives. Neither do they have wheat, corn or soy.

Images via Pixabay