Insects such as crickets may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of environmentally friendly food, but they fast becoming an increasingly popular and sustainable source of protein.
The world’s food supply requires an incredible amount of resources to produce from land on which to grow and feed the animals, water to sustain them to energy that goes into the production facilities. Today’s food producers are constantly searching for methods to reduce its environmental footprint and create sustainable systems throughout its supply chain.
One such company that is doing their part in the quest to create sustainable, healthy, and delicious food products is Prairie Cricket Farms, located right here in Manitoba.
Cricket farming, as practiced by Praire Cricket Farms, is extremely sustainable. It uses less land, water, food, and energy to produce than traditional meat proteins.
According to Ryan Steppler, co-owner, the crickets unique biology creates highly efficient usage of energy. “One of the reasons crickets are so sustainable and efficient in general is because they are cold blooded,” he says. “So when they take feed in, they don’t need to use that energy to heat their body so they put 100% of their energy into growing and creating protein.”
Prairie Cricket Farms was started by Ryan and Lesley Steppler in 2016. According to Ryan, “We are a family farm operation, starting as grain farmers. Bu we needed to find a way to diverisfy and so we thought we’d try something very new. We operate the cricket processing facility with the help of a few family members but for the most part it is not very labour intensive.”
One of the ways that crickets are packaged and sold to consumers is as a protein powder. “You can add cricket powder into smoothies and baking to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients and protein that you need per day,” says Lesley. “Two tablespoons of our powder is 56% of the daily-recommended intake of B12 so that’s huge.”
The other food product created by Prairie Cricket Farms is a seasoned roasted snack that’s also protein packed.
“We lightly oil the whole body roasted crickets and season them three ways: salt & vinegar, dill pickle and our family favourite, BBQ,” says Ryan.
“The bbq flavouring is my own secret spice mixture, and it’s our most popular flavour,” adds Lesley. “Our kids really enjoy taking crickets as a snack to school, we pack them when we’re on the go, they really are a great alternative to a cracker or a chip and they taste like a sunflower seed.”
“We use the product a lot in our own kitchen. I make pancakes, smoothies, muffins, and cookies, the kids even add protein powder to their cereal in the morning!”
While the tastes and nutritional benefits are a definite plus to enjoying cricket snacks, the overall sustainability of producing the crickets is very important to Ryan and Lesley.
According to Ryan, “The thing that got me hooked was the fact that crickets are 65% pure protein and we can produce them with less environmental impact than other traditional sources so if we can rely on cricket protein for some of our human and animal dietary needs that will go a long way towards fighting climate change.”
Prairie Cricket Farms cricket snacks and protein powder can be found at local food specialty markets and shops.