CRUNCHY CRICKETS. Stephen Swanson shows a bowl of frozen
crickets at Tomorrow’s Harvest cricket farm in Williston,
Vermont. Farmers are raising the alternative livestock they
claim is more ecologically sound than meat but acknowledge is
sure to bug some people out. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke, File)
From The Asian Reporter, V27, #3 (February 6, 2017),
Fish and chirps? Crickets make leap in demand
as a protein
By Lisa Rathke
The Associated Press
WILLISTON, Vt. — At Tomorrow’s Harvest farm, you won’t find
acres of land on which animals graze, or rows of corn, or bales
of hay. Just stacks of boxes in a basement and the summery song
of thousands of chirping crickets.
It’s one of a growing number of operations raising crickets
for human consumption that these farmers say is more
ecologically sound than meat but acknowledge is sure to bug some
Once consumers get beyond the ick factor, they say, there are
a lot of benefits to consuming bugs.
"We don’t need everybody to eat insects," said Robert Nathan
Allen, founder and director of Little Herds, an educational
nonprofit in Austin, Texas that promotes the use of insects for
human food and animal feed. "The point we really like to
highlight with the education is that if only a small percent of
people add this to their diet, there’s a huge environmental
Cricket fans say if only one percent of the U.S. population
substituted even just one percent of their meat consumption with
insects, millions of gallons of water for drinking and
irrigation would be saved, along with thousands of metric tons
of greenhouse-gas emissions from machinery and animals.
At least one study finds the claims overstated that crickets
are a viable protein source to supplement or replace meat, but
bottom line, it generally takes fewer resources to raise and
harvest crickets than, say, cattle.
Interest in entomophagy — the consumption of insects — was
fuelled in part by a 2013 report from the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations on the viability of edible
insects to help curb world hunger.
Since then, the number of producers of food containing
crickets, from protein bars to chips, has jumped from zero to
about 20, and cricket farms for human food have grown to about
half a dozen in the United States, Allen said.
The protein-packed food can be ground into powder and added
to other foods or eaten whole, dried, sautéed, and spiced.
Crickets have a nutty or earthy flavor that’s masked by other
flavors in protein bars.
Self-described adventurous eater Matthew Monroe, 53, of
Portland, Oregon, said he’s fond of blueberry-vanilla Exo bars
containing cricket flour and dines on them when he gets that
"protein bar jonesing feeling." They also taste better than
other protein bars, he said.
There’s no problem selling crickets as long as manufacturers
ensure the food they produce for the U.S. market is safe and
complies with all relevant laws and Food and Drug Administration
regulations, including proper labelling.
Raising crickets doesn’t take much space, but there are
Stephen Swanson, proprietor of Tomorrow’s Harvest, said he
constantly checks conditions — water, food, temperature, air
flow, and humidity — in the basement where he’s raising roughly
half a million crickets.
Swanson, who just started selling cricket protein powder
online, hopes to get into a warehouse where some of the work
could be automated.
"The sky’s the limit. This is the stone age right now as far
as insect farming," he said. "So we have nowhere to go but up."
Kevin Bachhuber knows that firsthand. He started the first
U.S. cricket farm for human food in the Youngstown, Ohio area,
according to Allen. It operated until lead in his water supply
prompted him to close it, Bachhuber said.
Now, Bachhuber said, he is helping new cricket farmers get
started or existing farms that raise crickets for reptile feed
and fish bait get up to food grade standards.
"For the first couple years, you know, we always struggled
with having enough supply. Now that we’re starting to be able to
add some of these older farmers into our supply chain. ... It’s
not quite so heavy pressure," Bachhuber said.
The first U.S. academic conference devoted to insects for
food and feed was held in Detroit in May. Now the young industry
is forming a trade group with the priorities being research and
"Half the battle if not more is educating people why. You
can’t just say eat crickets, please. You have to tell them why,"