Are Crickets Vegetarian? Do Vegans Eat Crickets?
When we launched in 2014 we understood that there would be a lot of customer education needed to help people understand the benefits and reasons why they should be eating edible insects. We get it…not many have tried roasted crickets or flavored mealworms. At least not yet!
But we do come across questions that don’t always have easy answers.
Such as, “Are Crickets Vegetarian?” and also,”Can Vegans Eat Crickets?” These questions don’t have easy answers, but that is not a bad thing. We truly believe that having a conversation helps us to understand other perspectives and can even help us put some of those ideas into practice within our own business. So after many of the those conversations, one of them being with our own family member that is vegetarian, we put together the following list for you:
Top 3 Factors to Consider for Whether Vegetarians and Vegans Eat Insects
1. Do crickets feel pain? Choosing to be vegetarian/vegan often is based on how animals are treated and processed to be a part of our food chain. And it is a good point to consider. With our global food access, we should be able to choose food practices and options that don’t include needless harm to animals. So we know crickets are animals. But do they feel pain in the farming and processing that should also preclude them?
Answer: Yes, but maybe not like what we think. From the scientists and researchers we have talked to, crickets don’t feel pain like we do or in the same way. But even so, they do react to stimuli and while they might not have the same complex response that other animals do, there are factors to consider when harmful actions are considered. Even though crickets have a short life-span, we have taken this into account in how we process the crickets. When the crickets enter adult-hood near the end of their lifespan, the crickets are humanely put to sleep with temperature so they feel like they are going to go into homeostasis for cold weather. Then the temperature is dropped completely so they pass in their sleep to limit any feeling of harmful stimuli.
2. Are crickets raised naturally? We get this question a lot. Are the crickets raised naturally like they would be if in the wild? This likely stems from the movement seen in other animal industries with a look towards to giving them the natural environments to help them thrive. Animal welfare is a very important issue, and it is great to see progress with open range farms for chickens, cows, etc. And it is a good question.
Answer: No, but in the controlled environment. Cricket farms typically use a pen or container farming method to raise the crickets into adulthood. Because crickets eat almost anything, it is important to control their feed and environment to know what they are eating and to make sure it is only foods safe for human consumption. So instead of free range crickets, it is important to recreate those natural environments they thrive in, within those pen and containers. So just like you will often find house crickets in barns, basements, and in the house, the farmers will create those same substrates crickets naturally look for in the controlled environment for them to grow and thrive in.
3. What nutritional benefit would I get from crickets that I couldn’t get from plants? Our current global economy creates an amazing opportunity for individuals to discover foods and ingredients that might never have known about. And for vegetarians and vegans, and really everyone in the world, it is important to get those necessary vitamins and minerals our own bodies need to thrive. So with this global access to food, vegetarians have asked what they could get from crickets that they wouldn’t receive from eating other plants and vegetables.
Answer: Protein, Omega-3s, Omega-6s, and B12. Notably, protein and omega oils can be found in plant sources other than animal based ones. In fact there are some amazing sources of Omega oils that can be found in chia seeds, brussel sprouts, algal oil, hemp seed, walnuts, flaxseeds, etc. However, there is an argument that to cultivate those plants insects are already harmed in the processing so this is a way to utilize those nutrients (but there are options for veganic agricultural see http://www.goveganic.net/).
The main selling point for a lot of vegetarians/vegans is the bio-availability of vitamin B12 that is available naturally from eating edible insects such as crickets. Vegans and vegetarians often need to find fortified foods/drinks with B12 that are made typically from microorganisms as well. Crickets as an example contain 270% B12 in one servings, and 22% of your daily recommended protein (see more cricket nutrition here).