Hear that? That’s the sound of a cricket cracker crunching in your buddy’s mouth. There’s a new mouthful in the snack world: eating bugs. Yes, you read that correctly. Insect protein is a trend that’s taking the food industry by storm, one cricket at a time. And apparently, 80 percent of countries and 2.5 billion people are already in on this unconventional snacking action.
Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban offered Chirps Chips an investment of $100,000, which the founders accepted. So, what is it? A cricket or a chip? The answer: both. Chirps are made with beans, rice and cricket flour, with a tagline, “Eat what bugs you.”
On a study abroad trip to Tanzania, one of the company’s founders was somehow persuaded to eat a fried caterpillar, and she became hooked to insects ever since — evidently, it tasted like lobster. Not only did she enjoy the taste, it turns out crickets and other insects are a sustainable protein source. Two roommates on the team and one very successful Kickstarter later, Chirps was born.
Cricket-based snacks check a lot of boxes. It’s a healthy, sustainable source of protein, for starters. In Chirps’ case, the baked chips contain half the fat of regular potato chips and are high in iron (more than spinach), B12 (more than salmon), calcium and of course protein, with about 20 grams in each bag. Bonus: They’re also gluten-free.
The environmental impact reduction of these little-bug bags is significant. Crickets don’t require nearly as much food and water as, say, beef. They also take a lower rate of greenhouse gas emissions to sustain — only 1 percent of what it would take for beef.
That’s the million-dollar question. There’s no real consensus, but there are a lot of flavoring options. It’s been said that it’s comparable to anything from multigrain chips, nutty shrimp or popcorn. Angelina Jolie’s kids apparently love snacking on crickets and compare the taste to Doritos.
That depend largely on how you feel about eating crickets and if it’s too extreme for you. It certainly can be a healthy and sustainable alternative, and many swear it’s delicious. But if you can’t get over the idea of eating an insect, you might not be able to stomach it, no matter how many nutritional facts you read.
Also, if you have a shellfish allergy, you may be off the hook — for many, crickets seem to set off that same allergic response.
How about vegetarians? Turns out that a vegetarian who eats bugs is called an “entotarian.” (Yes, there’s a name for everything.) Insects happen to have a lot of things that vegetarians generally struggle to include in their diets, such as protein and B12. Crickets have a limited central nervous system and lack pain receptors, according to Chirps Chips, so there are some ethically minded vegetarians incorporating them into their diets.
Everyone else? Snack away. Odds are that insects are here to stay as a sustainable food of the future. Except to those of us who would rather starve than eat a cricket, that is.