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Is Bug Protein the Next Big Food Trend?

What’s gluten free, organic, and high in protein and essential fatty acids? Why, the newest line of trendy miracle foods: crickets, mealworms, soldier fly larvae, waxworms, cockroach nymphs, and house flies. If the idea of crickety kale salad doesn’t make your mouth water, there’s something you should know. A cricket needs 12 times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein – and they taste like almonds.

In fact, crickets and other edible insects are brimming with protein and some segments of society have noticed. Bodybuilders are extremely enthusiastic about eating insects. Many extreme athletes rely on whey protein powder to increase muscle mass, but dried whey is only about 12 percent protein. In comparison, crickets are 65 percent protein and dried beef is only 50 percent protein. In addition, edible insects are high in omega-3s and other essential fatty acids. Crickets, grasshoppers, ants, and some caterpillars are exceptionally high in calcium – and soldier fly larvae are almost entirely calcium.

A few years ago two college students raised fifty grand on Kickstarter to found Exo. The company produces cricket-flour protein bars that are “paleo friendly and gluten, soy, dairy, & grain free.” Each bar has about 35 crickets in it which equals 12 grams of protein. Exo can’t make them fast enough, probably because you can’t actually taste the crickets. Exo sells about 50,000 cricket bars per month.

Exo isn’t alone. New Millennium Farms in Toronto, founded in 2013, produces around 10,000 pounds of cricket flour every month. The flour, which is 100 percent ground cricket, has more iron than spinach, as much calcium as milk, as well as scads of omega 3 and B12. One of the company’s founders, Jarrod Goldin, calls the product “floured meat.” Sure, the company was originally founded to raise insects as snake food, but now the bugs are being used to make cookies and “chirps,” or cricket infused tortilla chips, and cookies.

While crickets may be the next big food trend, bugs have been on humanity’s menu for millennia—fried, baked, and raw. And don’t think you’re not eating insects every day. According to the FDA, there are bug parts in wheat flour—75 fragments per 50 grams (which is about half a cup). The FDA also allows 30 fly eggs per quarter cup of tomato paste (100 grams). Ground oregano can have 1,250 or more insect fragments per 10 grams. Even beer is buggy—hops can have 2,500 aphids per 10 grams. If you have a pizza and beer—even if you’re a vegetarian, you’re eating something like five pieces of bug with every bite. Bon appétit!