Wrapping your mind around eating a cricket might still seem a bit unorthodox, but that’s likely because our society has been conditioned to view crickets as “pests” and not the super-powered nutritious food source they actually are. Funnily enough, we seem to have no trouble thinking of crustaceans as delicious proteins when, in fact, they are essentially the crickets of the sea, bugs of the ocean, and still we eat them in bulk–saturated in butter and dipped in cocktail sauce.
So, perhaps a better way to think of crickets is as “Land Shrimp.”
“Some people had the idea to call them, as a joke, land shrimps,” said Claudio La Rocca, an entomologist and the co-founder of Camola Foods. “Crickets and shrimps are quite close in their evolution…”
Just like crickets, shrimp have hard exoskeletons and soft bodies. While lobsters are considered the “cockroaches of the sea,” shrimp can easily be compared to a variety of insects including crickets.
Insects and shellfish all belong to the “phylum” family of Arthropoda, or arthropods. The arthropod is an invertebrate animal (meaning it has no backbone) and it has an exoskeleton (external skeleton), a segmented body, and jointed appendages. In fact, lobsters, shrimp, crabs, and other so-called shellfish have less in common with fish than they do insects.
Crickets and shrimp specifically also share a commonality of being a prime source of omega-3s, except that crickets have been found to be even richer sources of both protein and omega-3s than shrimp. This is, of course, not counting all the other health benefits that come with eating crickets which are rich in iron, full of non-dairy calcium, low in fat and high in dietary fiber.
But a big difference between crickets and shrimp is that harvesting enough shrimp to feed our seafood-loving world has devastating consequences for the planet. Whether they are caught in the wild or farmed, both methods for harvesting shrimp have their setbacks–such as the pollution of unwanted chemicals from coast-side shrimp harvest pools–and are likely not sustainable in the long-haul.
Harvesting crickets, on the other hand, require much fewer resources and very little space. Plus, insect reproduction rates are incredibly vast and they reach adulthood just as quickly, making them an easily accessible source of food that can keep up with the rapidly increasing human population.
So, as beloved of a seafood delicacy as shrimp has become here in the U.S., crickets, if given the chance, can become an even healthier, eco-friendly meal option for those who love their “phylum” foods.