"How about eating a steak for dinner? And why not a cricket steak for a change?" Imagine that you are in a restaurant... a special restaurant. On the menu, you can choose between the classic beef steak, but also, a cricket steak. What would be the advantages of choosing crickets rather than beef?
Nutritional properties (1) (2)
Let's start by comparing the nutritional properties offered by a 100 g steak of ground beef compared to a steak made with 100 g of crickets.
While red meat is often known to be a significant source of protein in our diet, it is interesting to note that crickets have a protein content of about two to three times higher. Surprising right? Take a look at the chart below: 100 g of chopped steak brings only about of 20 g of protein against 60 g for a cricket steak of the same weight.
Graph 1: Comparison of the macronutrients content in 100 g cricket steak versus 100 g ground beef
As mentioned in the protein article, protein quality is also an important factor to consider. Crickets, just like beef, are an excellent source of complete protein. Nevertheless, given their higher protein content, crickets provide more essential amino acids than beef on the same weight basis. Thus the cricket steak is much more profitable in terms of proteins offered.
Moreover, unlike beef, crickets provide us with dietary fibers, known for their beneficial effects on intestinal transit. The latter are present in significant quantity: 6 g per 100 g of insect, which represents more than 20% of the recommended daily dietary intake (Health Canada recommends a daily intake of 25 g for an individual aged from 18 to 50 years).
But that is not all: crickets also contain more potassium. This mineral is crucial within our body, as its main function is to maintain fluids and electrolytes balance as well as cells’ integrity. Adequate intake of potassium notably helps reducing hypertension.
Finally, let's talk about omega-3 and omega-6. These two fatty acids are essential in our diet as our organism cannot synthesize them. Our body uses those molecules as a base to form other molecules necessary for the proper functioning of our cells. Because these two elements compete during the assimilation process, it is important to maintain a specific balance of each of the molecules. Crickets offer an ideal ratio of about 4: 1 (omega 6: omega 3) and in greater quantity than beef.
And from an environmental point of view?(3)
Now let's take a look at the raising methods of cattle and crickets.
How do we raise cattle? It's quite simple: to caricature, you just have to give them lots of water, lots of food and lots of time. And what about crickets? These are breeded in very large numbers in a barn, and in less than 6 weeks they become adults. As an example, Entomo Farms, (our provider), uses a 60,000 square foot building hosting about 100 million crickets. Concerning their diet, they only need very small quantities of food and water.
Conversion of food into protein
First of all, crickets require about 12 times less food than ox for the same edible weight gain. In fact, 2.4 kg of fodder (food given to cattle) are necessary to produce 100 g of beef, against 200 g of food, for crickets.
One quickly understands why two-thirds of the cultivated surfaces are used for animal production... And yet, we must take into account the phytosanitary products (substances used to treat or protect the plant against pathogenic organisms) and fuel used to grow these forage crops. In this regard, the cricket is clearly winner!
But it's not over! The estimated amount of water needed to produce 100 g of beef is about 2 200 L, taking into account the huge amount of water needed for forage crops. Yet, there is no accurate data available on this subject concerning crickets. However, according to estimations, the amount of water needed would be around 2000 times less.
Greenhouse gases emissions
Let's now look at greenhouse gases emissions. According to the 2013 FAO report concerning edible insect, livestock would be responsible for 18% of the emissions, which represent a larger share than the transportation sector. Cattle farming is responsible for the majority of it. In fact, the production of a 100 g beef steak induces 750 g greenhouse gases emission (CO2 equivalent). The emissions related to the production of the same amount of crickets are estimated 100 times lesser... Well, that is quite a big difference!
Now let’s talk about another important aspect : price. Because nowadays crickets are a rare commodity, the laws of economics make them a relatively expensive food. On the other hand, beef has been raised on a large scale for several decades. Insects industry is still in its early stage, the production is not yet automated and as efficient as conventional farming. However techniques and tools are being developed to fill these gaps. Insect-based food will become more democratic with time and should become even more affordable than beef.
For now, the cricket is more expensive than beef, but this will not last!
To put it in a nutshell, as you may have noticed, crickets are an alternative much more eco-responsible than beef, while providing better nutritional proprieties. Crickets contain 2 to 3 times more complete protein as a steak of beef on the same weight basis. Crickets will give you also more iron, more vitamins, and more fiber. In addition, a cricket steak represents a huge ecological advantage, compared to a beef one. It has smaller impact on the planet: its production requires 12 times less feed resources and about 2000 times less water. It is also at the origin of 100 times less greenhouse gas emissions. The cricket steak widely wins this face to face!
Until you find a steak of cricket in your favorite restaurant, why not start with a Naak bar?
(1) Klein, F., & Möller, G. (2010). Dietary fiber, fruit and vegetable consumption and health. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
(2) Whitney, E. N., & Rolfes, S. R. (2016). Understanding nutrition.
(3) Huis, A. ., Van, I. J., Klunder, H., & Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,. (2014). Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security