Sharing the cricket love in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

A few weeks ago we visited Guadalupe Mountains National Park in northwest Texas, just south of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. While there, we went for a spectacular hike with the guys from 59in59. They travel with a truck loaded with quick energy food, but were happy to fuel up for our hike with some cricket power in the form of Exo protein bars from my stash. Reviews were positive!

hiking with cricket bars and 59in59

The 59in59 guys, Darius and Trevor, quit their jobs last June and began a mission to visit 59 National Parks in 59 weeks to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Learn more about their adventures, and get inspired to get outdoors, on their site,

Why Entomophagy Matters

What is entomophagy? 

I get that question a lot (with the implied “why do you (and should I) care?”), and have worked to reduce my spiel down to an elevator pitch. My goal is to not just define the word, but tell why I care about entomophagy – give a convincing, but simple, explanation of why bugs are the best protein source for ethical and environmental reasons.

So I didn’t quite succeed at creating a quick pitch–there are too many important points to make! I’ll keep working on cutting it down into something that closer resembles an elevator pitch, but for now, here’s my… essay, really, with statistics help from Chapul, Exo, Crik Nutrition, Bitty FoodsBig Cricket Farms, the journal Science, Stanford, and the Coursera course from Johns Hopkins on the US Food system I took a couple years ago (see here, here, and here for relevant notes).

Most meat produced in the US is raised on factory farms, where animals are crammed together in cramped and dirty housing–a hardship for both animals and workers–and which pollute water, air, and soil, and drive down neighboring property values. *

Factory farmed animals are pumped full of antibiotics, chemicals, and hormones, and some farms feed industrial waste containing heavy metals to the animals. The sketchy things fed to food animals are later absorbed by human consumers. Remember, “you are what what you eat eats.” (Michael Pollan) Antibiotic misuse on factory farms breeds resistant strains of bacteria, which are transported off the farm via trucks, workers, meat, fertilizer, and even birds, and cause difficult-to-treat infections in humans. **


(credit: wongaboo; license)

Raising animals in industrial systems is extremely water- and land-intensive. ***

As the global need for protein continues to rise, the industrial farming system becomes less and less sustainable. Insects, specifically crickets, can be a nutritionally, ethically, and environmentally superior protein source to conventional meat.

Crickets are an excellent source of protein and nutrients. They are lower in fat, and higher in iron and magnesium than beef, and are a complete protein source: they contain all nine amino acids essential to human and animal diets.

The environmental footprint of a cricket farm is minuscule compared to an industrial farm system. Pound for pound, crickets produce 1% as many greenhouse gases as cows and three times less waste. Crickets need 8% of the feed and water as cows to produce the same amount of protein, and are much more efficient as a protein source than cows: 100 lbs of feed produces 50-60 lbs of edible cricket protein, vs 5 lbs of edible beef. **** A cricket farm requires 2000x less land than a cow farm.

Crickets have a much shorter life span, and can be harvested at 6 weeks, which is much faster than cows at 18 months. North American farms raising crickets for human consumption feed organic diets without hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides (of course). Crickets are harvested humanely by dropping the ambient temperature to put them into a dormant hibernation-like state, and from there they’re deep-frozen. *****

People in poor countries need access to iron- and protein-rich meat sources, and a resilient system for growing it. Cricket farming could help solve that problem. According to the UN, if edible insects become a part of the mainstream global diet, we can reduce greenhouse gases by 18%, and lower the average cost of food globally by 33%. Other cultures all over the world eat bugs, and Americans are already eating bug parts at some levels in processed foods. Insect protein is the future, so you might as well start embracing it now!

fried insects

(credit: shankar slicense)

For easy entry into the world of eating bugs, try cricket energy and meal replacement bars, cricket baked goods, and cricket protein powder from Exo, Chapul, Bitty Foods, and Crik Nutrition. For 10% off Exo bars, use code HAUTEPASTURE at checkout!

I had a lot of trouble limiting myself to a length that would make for a somewhat effective elevator pitch; hence, the asterisks above, for the following elaborations:

* Most people are aware of the terrible conditions for animals on factory farms, but the conditions can be horrible for workers too: exposure to chemicals, waste gases, particulates, hard labor, and illegals with no rights often must endure abusive hiring practices.

** Factory farms pollute water with waste storage failures and illegal dumping directly into waterways; air pollution comes from gases, particulates, and animal dander, and soil is polluted when waste is applied to land as fertilizer. For industrially produced meat products, the ratio of fossil fuel energy input to food energy produced out can be as high as 35:1, with beef produced in feedlots generally having the most unfavorable ratio.

*** 7% of global water is used to grow grain for livestock, and meat production uses 70% of farmland, 30% of Earth’s surface, and 40% grain grown globally. Meat production is an inefficient use of grain, water, and land: it takes 1000 kg water to produce 1 kg of grain. The grain required to produce 100 kg of beef, pork, and poultry is 700 kg, 650 kg, and 260 kg respectively. So, for beef, it takes 7000 kg of water to make 1 kg of beef.

**** Crickets require about one gallon of water per pound, about 2000x less than cows, 800x less than pigs, 500x less than chickens, 350x less than eggs, even 200x less than vegetables.

***** Usually then they’re boiled to clean them and remove wings and legs, and dried and pulverized into powder. Cricket powder alone is not very tasty, so it’s combined with other powders for cricket flour for baking, or protein powder for supplements.

Tips for feeding bugs to your family

I mentioned a special surprise dessert in my satay post.

chocolate-dipped crickets

You may recall from my birthday gathering last fall that a chocolate shop in Charlottesville sells chocolate-dipped worms, crickets, and scorpions. Mr HP and I thought it would be fun to surprise the family, which includes a brave 4-year-old girl and a slightly timid 7-year-old boy, with some crickets. Mr HP and I made a big show of savoring our cricket treats, but alas, nobody else would try one. The other adults wimped out completely, and after careful consideration, our niece asked to take hers home “to eat later.” (We have not yet received confirmation that it actually happened.)

my niece vs the crickets

Our nephew asked to take his home too, and then burst into hysterical tears. He was so torn between wanting to do this thing that seemed really interesting and cool, and his general fear of bugs. It was kind of adorable.

The bugs were packed up and conversation moved on.

Five minutes later, through his sobs, he declared he was ready to eat the bug and proceeded to stand in front of us all, bravely pop it in his mouth, tentatively chew, and then triumphantly open his mouth for inspection. He said it tasted like chocolate.


Fast-forward one week, and my sister and her husband were visiting. Since the adults of Family Weekend #1 passed on the chocolate crickets, we presented them on a dessert plate to the adults of Family Weekend #2. My brother-in-law didn’t hesitate, eating one with zero fanfare. My sister, however, wavered. She stalled with questions (“do I eat it cricket-side up or cricket-side down?”) and made all sorts of dismayed sounds while alllllmost pulling the trigger. Finally she did it… and said it tasted like chocolate.


What is the moral of this story?

Feeding your family bugs is fun for everyone. Chocolate helps the process. Read this post to learn more about why eating bugs is a good thing to start practicing. If you haven’t tried a chocolate-dipped bug and have them available to you (ahem C’villans), you should try one, and tell us how it goes in the comments!

The next big thing in sustainable protein: Bugs!

I recently had a birthday, and Mr. HP surprised me with these:

chocolate bugs


What a lucky girl I am!

Mr. HP set up a chocolate-dipped bug tasting for six at a Southwest Virginia winery. The accompanying pours were less for wine appreciation and more for steeling of nerves.

no bugs thanks

The buggy treats came from My Chocolate Shoppe in downtown Charlottesville, which has created quite a buzz (get it) locally with its chocolate-dipped worms, crickets, and scorpions. The bugs are farmed and baked in California, shipped to My Chocolate Shoppe, and hand-dipped on site.

bugs and wine

As insect farming is a rising trend in sustainable and ethical protein production, I felt compelled to write about my entomophagy experience here.

Sustainability of insect farming

We all know factory farming is bad for the atmosphere, waterways, local community, resident animals, facility workers, and potentially consumers of the end product. Production of traditional livestock (chicken, pigs, and beef cattle) contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than the transportation sector and consumes vast amounts of freshwater. Factory farms pollute waterways with fertilizer, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. CAFOs are blights on their surroundings and poison their neighbors with chemical runoff and manure lagoon leaks. Antibiotic use in livestock is causing the development of resistant strains of bacteria that are difficult to treat in humans. See my notes from a US Food Systems course I took last year for more horrifying details and appalling statistics.

As the global population continues to expand, there will be more and more pressure on the land to produce enough protein to feed everyone. Insects can fill this need with a much smaller footprint on the environment; they simply don’t require the land, water, and food resources that chickens, pigs, and cattle do. Insects produce fewer greenhouse emissions, their containers can be stacked on shelves, and insect farming doesn’t involve the hormones, antibiotics, fertilizers, and pesticides that CAFOs rely on.

It takes 2,900 gallons of water, 25 pounds of feed and extensive acreage to produce one pound of beef and just one gallon of water, two pounds of feed and a small cubicle to produce a pound of crickets. – “Edible insects a boon to Thailand’s farmers


Thus, considering all factors, the actual food conversion efficiency of insects may be 20 times that of cattle. This means insect farming — along with other forms of “microlivestock”, could be one of the elements of a sustainable global agricultural future.- “Edible bugs and insects: Are these high protein critters the future of food?

Bug farming ethics

Are the bugs treated ethically while alive? Are they humanely slaughtered? I believe so. Farmed insects are raised in dark colonies, as they are found in nature; they are provided food, and protected. When harvesting time rolls around, they are chilled to a natural hibernation-like state, and from there the temperature is lowered until they die quietly.

Insects raised in farms live in teeming dark conditions (preferable environment), with ample and abundant food supply, no natural predators, no risk of outside diseases or parasites, and when they’re culled we lower the temperature so that there’s no violent death or change in state (because insects are exothermic their metabolism slows until they go into a coma-like sleep without any pain). I can’t think of a more humane way to raise our meat. – Robert Nathan Allen of Little Herds, via NPR

Bug nutrition

Bugs are a high protein, nutrient-rich, low fat and low cholesterol food. Insect protein is a complete protein, meaning all nine essential amino acids are present. Bugs are also are significant sources of zinc, iron, and vitamin A.

According to Chapul, makers of cricket-based protein bars, insects have:

  • 15% more iron than spinach
  • 2x more protein than beef
  • as much B12 as salmon

The table below (source) compares insect nutrition against that of chicken, beef, and salmon:

Warning to those with a shellfish allergy: bug exoskeletons are made of chitin, which also makes the shells of shrimp, crabs, and lobsters.

But how did they taste?

We decided to eat the worm first, as it was the least intimidating, and we’d eat in in a single bite so we wouldn’t have to see any innards. It was… not bad. The worm had no flavor, so it just added a rice krispie-like crunch to the chocolate.

Next was the scorpion, which was a similar no-flavor-big-crunch addition to the chocolate as the worm. No problem.

The cricket had the biggest gross-out factor, in my opinion. Its body is meatier than the other two. And sure enough, I didn’t like it. It had a bitter flavor along with its crunch.

plates of bugs

It was a fun experiment. But – surprise – we Americans have been eating bugs all along in processed food. The FDA allows certain amounts of insect parts, including pieces, larvae, eggs, and sacs, in foods like dried herbs, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, coffee beans, flours, peanut butter, sauces, and more. This article estimates that “on average an individual probably ingests about one to two pounds of flies, maggots and other bugs each year without even knowing it.” Sorry to break it to you, but you’re already an entomophagist! Congrats!

I had no plans to eat more bugs in the immediate future, but while researching this post I enjoyed reading the Exo “Why Crickets” page so much I ordered a couple of their cricket-flour protein bars to try. I’ll let you know how it goes.