March 2022 Issue
Ask the Expert: Cricket-Derived Protein
By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND
Vol. 24, No. 3, P. 10
Q: I’ve seen more foods being made with cricket-derived protein. What’s behind the trend, and are crickets a sustainable and nutritious food source?
A: Entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, is considered ordinary in most of the world, and, recently, some US farmers have begun raising crickets for human consumption and use in pet food formulations.
With the global population expected to grow to 9.7 billion by 2050, cricket consumption is being considered to help feed the world and reduce food insecurity. Crickets are indeed a sustainable source of protein, requiring little land, food, and water to raise. Plus, crickets provide a variety of nutrients, including protein.1
While whole crickets commonly are eaten worldwide, many cricket foods available in the United States are in the form of powdered crickets, also called cricket flour. Two teaspoons (20 g) of Entomo Farms Cricket Powder provides 90 kcal, 3.5 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 13 g protein, 2 g total carbohydrate, 1 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugars, 70 mg sodium, and 320% DV vitamin B12.
A 2021 study published in Frontiers in Nutrition compared the nutrient composition of the two main cricket species used for human consumption—Scapsipedus icipe and Gryllus bimaculatus—with that of common protein-containing animal and plant foods, such as fish, beef, eggs, soybeans, kidney beans, and whole milk.2
Researchers found that these cricket species had crude protein content comparable to animal protein sources and amino acid profiles superior to animal and plant sources, except for levels of histamine and cysteine. Roughly 80% to 88% of the protein in crickets was digestible, which is slightly lower than animal proteins and comparable to plant foods.2
Interestingly, iron, zinc, potassium, riboflavin, thiamine, and folic acid were higher in both species of cricket than in plant and animal sources. This also was the case for calcium, except when crickets were compared with kidney beans and eggs. Between the cricket species, vitamin A levels were significantly higher in S icipe than G bimaculatus. Researchers concluded that the nutrient levels found in crickets can adequately contribute to daily nutrient requirements.2
The authors also wrote that adding cricket-derived flours/powders to ready-to-eat food products may help reduce nutrient deficiency–related conditions such as anemia, hypertension, poor pregnancy outcomes, stunted growth, and impaired physical and cognitive development, especially in developing countries.1 As a result, edible crickets can help improve food and nutrition insecurity worldwide.
Sources of Cricket-Derived Protein
Cricket-derived protein powder/flour can be added to foods made at home, although ready-made food products containing cricket powder, such as crackers, bars, and other snacks, are emerging. The following are a few examples of cricket powders/flours on the market:
• Chirps Cricket Powder: This cricket-derived protein powder has a subtle, nutty flavor and can be used as a 1:1 replacement for all-purpose flour in baking. The company recommends starting with a 1:4 powder-to-flour ratio and then adjusting according to one’s taste and preference.
• Cricket Flours All-Purpose Baking Flour: This flour, which includes cricket powder blended with wheat and barley flours, provides protein and nutrition added from cricket protein. The company also offers 100% cricket powder, brownie and pancake mixes, and roasted whole crickets.
• JR Unique Foods Cricket Powder: JR Unique features on its website that its crickets are raised on FDA-registered farms and fed a diet of vegetables. Crickets are pressure cooked and then ground into fine cricket powder. The cricket powder, which is available from several species, can be added to baked goods, energy bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, veggie burgers, rice and beans, and pancake and cookie batters.
Recommendations for Clients
Cricket-derived powders and flours, as well as cricket-containing prepared foods, can be used to add protein and other nutrients into diets and generally are healthful and nutrient dense.
However, the price of many cricket-derived protein foods on the market is high compared with typical plant and animal protein sources. Clients also may have a negative reaction to the notion of incorporating cricket-derived protein into their diets. RDs who choose to recommend cricket-derived protein foods should consider the socioeconomic status of clients along with their potential emotional reactions to the idea of consuming crickets.
— Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, is the founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition (tobyamidornutrition.com) and a Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She’s written several cookbooks, including The Best Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook and The Family Immunity Cookbook: 101 Easy Recipes to Boost Health. She’s also a nutrition expert for FoodNetwork.com and a contributor to U.S. News Eat + Run and other national outlets.
1. Insects for food and feed. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. https://www.fao.org/edible-insects/en/
2. Murugu DK, Onyango AN, Ndiritu AK, et al. From farm to fork: crickets as alternative source of protein, minerals, and vitamins. Front Nutr. 2021;8:704002.