Crickets: Paleo AF
Whether you’re already eating Paleo or you have been newly convinced that Paleo is a fantastic way to improve your health in the short and long-term, fantastic! Now get ready to level up your nutrition while ramping down your impact on the planet. How? Simply by adding to your Paleo plate one of the most sustainable protein sources around: crickets.
You already know that eating foods with less processing and with long-term sustainability is the right thing to do. When it comes to animals specifically, those that are ethically-raised are important on the Paleo diet. This is because “growing” protein sources is expensive, water-heavy, and time intensive. And if one’s diet is going to contain a reasonable amount of animals, making better choices is the way to go. This is where crickets come in to claim their status as “Paleo As F”.
The Bad News About Factory Farmed Animals: Beef
Want to hear the bad news before you get excited for your new favorite protein? Here’s an example of how outsized the impact on factory farmed animals can be: a single beef burger patty—weighing ¼ pound—takes nearly 6 pounds of feed, 460 gallons of water (including the water to grow the feed they ate), and typically at least one dose with antibiotics to keep the animal from getting too sick for human consumption.
And that’s only beef. Other factory farmed animals fare better but not by much. Sheep need 8 pounds of feed per pound of meat and chickens, 4 pounds. Crickets? About 1.5 pounds! That’s an amazing conversion equation, and it partly comes from how quickly you can bring a cricket to adult size: just 4 weeks on average, far less than all factory-farmed animals, including chickens!
Win Number 1 for Crickets: Nutrition
Now let’s look at the nutrition of crickets vs beef. Crickets are killing it with nutritional wins. First, cricket powder is a high-protein low-carb option: 60% protein by weight, with natural fiber from chitin. Oh, and they’re a complete protein, too, with all the essential amino acids.
Then there’s the fat content: both monounsaturated fats Omega-3s and Omega-6s are present in cricket powder. In addition to healthy fats, dried crickets contain 3.5x more iron than fresh spinach. Even better, they are packed with biotin and zinc and a full spectrum of B-vitamins, including B12. Yes—B12—that essential vitamin hard to obtain through any source other than animals. For those eating a nearly-vegan (or Pegan) diet, crickets can be the missing link to avoid taking supplements.
Win Number 2 for Crickets: Sustainability
Again, you’ll love what cricket farming has to offer. In addition to the low feed amounts required, crickets actually thrive in cramped low-water environments which keeps their water needs low and their acreage minimal. This means waste is also vastly reduced. The sustainability cycle continues with almost ZERO greenhouse gases emitted during the lifespan of crickets (compared to farmed beef which emits huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas, during their life cycle).
Bringing a protein source to “harvest” is only part of the equation. Don’t forget about processing, which can cause another level of both environmental impact as well as nutritional degradation. Take an isolated soy protein powder, for example. Once the soybeans are harvested, they are dried, ground, separated into macronutrients, rinsed, then dried again to achieve final powder form. All of these steps take time, water, and can reduce the bioavailability of the resulting protein. When consuming cricket flour (also referred to as cricket powder), bioavailability has been maintained at the highest possible level.
Animals go through often extensive processing, as well. In beef, only some of the animal is used, so there is waste of up to half the weight from the start. Then, meat is cut, trimmed, and often processed by grinding, irradiating, and even some sanitizing washes to ensure no bacteria are transmitted. Each step takes skilled labor, water, and rigorous sanitation to ensure a good product.
Crickets on the other hand are a completely edible animal, from “nose to tail”, and can be roasted whole to be eaten as is, or dried and ground up as flour. That’s it. No isolating, no chemicals, no mandatory steps beyond what is required to deliver to you a pure cricket experience. How refreshing!
Finally: Convincing the Skeptics Who Say, “I’m not eating bugs!”
And what about those that say, “Bugs?! No way!” But wait. Do you even know what crickets taste like? If the toasted nut flavor of crickets doesn’t bring everyone on board, we have a great example for you: sushi. Remember that it wasn’t until late in the 90s that most anyone had even heard of a California Roll, much less was able to get grocery store sushi every hour of every day of the week. All it took was a little exposure, a bit of a gateway food (roasted seasoned crickets are pretty amazing as a salad topper!), and soon enough, you’ll be seeing crickets on every menu and on every shelf.
Where do we end up? Paleo recognizes that humans evolved to eat animals, and there is incredible nutrition to be had there, but only if you do it in a way that is healthy and sustainable. But there’s a better way than factory farmed steaks and boneless skinless chicken breasts, which starts with eating more of the animals we already eat. Have some chicken liver, eat canned bone-in sardines! And moving beyond into the future we see CRICKETS. Ethical, low-impact, nutritious, and delicious. It’s Paleo in a nutshell.